Monday, September 30, 2013

Our other kids

 For about a week now, we have had a sheep (technically a ewe) with a limp. This is not the first time we have had a health issue with a barn animal, but it still amazes me how worried I become over a barn animal. Of course you become upset when your cat or dog is ill, but your ewe? All of our barn animals think they are lap dogs, they are as attached to us as we are to them. My husband always teases me about building a house over the barn like they do in Europe.  That way we would have quick easy access to them in case of an emergency. There have been times, when I have considered it.

Let me introduce you to the family...

Our 6 Cats

Cut and Fill

Our 4 Dogs

Our 6 goats


Our two Ewes

Two Pigs
Don't forget our two resident Peacocks
 We are so fortunate to be raising our family in this setting. I look forward to the many life lessons our farm will teach both us and our children.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Autumn Decorating

How do you decorate your home for Autumn? I am not big on Halloween decorations, I put up a few for our kids, but not many. Let me show you what I have done so far...

Like the empty picture frames? I plan on filling them when I take them down for the Christmas decorations.

You may have noticed that my decorations are up high. Well with a two year old a three year old and a four year old they have to be.

Hope that inspires you to put a few Autumn decorations up.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three Kids in One Room...

I have no room to complain. We live in a 3,000 sq. ft. home, BUT the layout is not exactly kid friendly. So we have had all three kids in one bedroom. Last winter I came to my braking point. The chaos in their room nearly caused me to have a panic attack every time I walked in there. Their room consisted of 2 toddler beds, 1 crib, 1 play kitchen, 1 (6 cube) storage system, and bins of toys on the floor.  All of this in a room that barely fits a queen size bed and 2 night sands.

We played around with the idea of loft beds from IKEA, but unfortunately the closest IKEA was not accessible to us because of a snowy mountain pass. So began my countless hours of searching Pinterest for a bedroom setup to accommodate multiple kids. Then I found it, now came the fun part. Convincing my husband that he wanted to build it. To my surprise I showed him the picture and his response was, "I love it, lets do it". Yahoo!

So the construction began, first remove everything from their room. Our kids got to sleep on mattresses on the floor for a while, and they loved it. Then remove everything from their closet including their closet doors. Why remove the closet doors? Well their beds were going to be built inside the closet. Genius, right?!

Here is LeiLei testing dads initial framing skills.

Once dad had the upper bed braced, it was time to check out the top bed.
 Then the safety railings were added, as well as the headboards I made
A privacy curtain makes it complete
Yes, that dirty bed on the bottom is Ademans, he is a little too young for a curtain, so for now I still have to stare at his mess.
Now that there is all of this space in their room, I could put another crib in their... Just sayin!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bio Mom Visit, Update

I can relax for another six months. Today was our visit. You may remember that I said I tend to be "moody" right before a visit. Well, it once again held true. I was a little on edge this morning. I know I will not win mommy of the year for what I am about to tell you, but I am sure many of you can relate. This morning LeiLei was doing a "no, no" over and over and over again. I was running around trying to get our other two kiddos ready for their visit, when I snapped... It went something like this...

Me "PLEASE LeiLei just stop it, NOW"
LeiLei "Why, will a doggy come get me?"
Insert me spinning around on my heels, and shooting her a look that said "what planet are you from?"
Me "No, LeiLei a doggy is not going to come get you"
LeiLei " Will it be a mean doggy that will eat me?"
Insert vein pulsating on my forehead, but at least she has stopped with her original "no,no"
Me "No, LeiLei there is no mean doggy coming to get you"
LeiLei " Will the mean dog eat me all gone"
Wait for it.........
Me "Yes, LeiLei the mean doggy is on its way over to eat you, so KNOCK it off"

Its a good thing we have dogs, otherwise I may have scarred her for life.

To make matters worse I have two sick kiddos, and a sick husband.  So, now in all actuality there were 4 "moody" people attending a visit. Well that's just peachy! I finally got myself and the kiddos out the door and on the road. It takes about twenty minutes to get to the Therapist office, twenty long minutes when you are filled with anxiety. My hubby was there waiting for us and seeing his smiling face in the parking lot sure helped me relax a bit.

Bio mom and grandma were there waiting for us.  The therapist has a room full of toys, which sure helps the kids ease into a visit. Our kids usually spend the first 15-20 minutes playing. Today Ademan was very engaged with Bio mom and JayJay was very shy, quite opposite from the previous visit. Bio mom always has a bag full of toys for her kiddos, and sometimes it is hard to watch her spoil them. I have to remind myself that its not hurting anyone, and that it only happens twice a year. Grandma took lots of pictures, which led to a conversation about Ademan. She has all of these wonderful baby pictures of him, and since we did not get him until he was a year old, I have none. She offered to put all of his baby pictures on a disk so that he and I will have them. Just another reason why an open adoption is so important.

The visit went rather quick, I was shocked when the Therapist said we had about ten minutes left. We cleaned up the room and said our goodbyes. I gave Bio mom a hug and told her she looked really good. She seems to be in a good place in her life, and I am happy for her. For the first time, I can say she was almost glowing. She looked really healthy. I gave grandma a hug and told her to take care. As we left, our kids said their goodbyes and told them that they loved them. Is that hard for me? Of course, but at the end of the day I would rather my kids love them than hate them. My hope is that as adults my children will have learned many lessons from all of this. Lessons about making good decisions in life, lessons about love and compassion, and lessons on forgiveness.

Thank you for all of the prayers that were said in regards to this visit.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Birthday LeiLei

We have a Birthday this week!!! Our oldest is turning 4. I know every parent says it, but wow, how can we possibly have a four year old?

A few years ago while watching 19 Kids & Counting (a.k.a. the Duggers, and if it was a few years ago it was probably only 17 Kids & Counting) they were explaining how they let their children celebrate their Birthdays. They allow their child to choose weather they want a traditional  Birthday Party or to have an Experience  (like skydiving, or being able to feed / touch the animals at the zoo). While they are young you give them a few choices, but as they get older they get to come up with their own experience (obviously within limits). I looked at my hubby and declared that was what we would do for our kiddos. Personally I hope they choose the experiences just so I can participate.

So for LeiLeis Birthday this year we asked her if she wanted a party or if she wanted to go camping, and she chose camping. Yahoo!! We will be celebrating our daughters birthday sitting on the river, with a campfire and smores.

Being the mom that I am, let me share with you her last three Birthdays...

First Birthday

2nd Birthday
3rd Birthday
A Daughter Like You
You're my daughter,
and I'd just like to say,
You bring me joy,
each and every day.
Whenever I think,
or look at you,
I know I'm blessed,
that's wonderfully true.
You're very special,
thoughtfully care,
A helping hand,
always willing to share.
You're always determined,
to achieve what's in your mind,
Thinking of others,
you're actions are kind.
I shall admit,
we're a wonderful team,
To have a daughter like you,
was my ultimate dream. 


Monday, September 23, 2013

Upcoming visit with Bio Mom...

I love September, the cooling temperatures, the abundance of apples and peaches, and the slower pace that Fall tends to bring to our household.  As much as I love September, it is also a month that leaves me sitting on pins and needles.

September and March are the scheduled months for JayJay and Ademan to visit with their Bio Mom. JayJay and Ademan are full biological siblings, and we are so fortunate to have them both. They both have the same Open Adoption Agreement with their Bio Mom, which is two visits a year, and two letters with pictures a year. So, why do I sit on pins and needles? Well it is up to Bio Mom to make the arrangements. We picked a Family Therapist for our visits, and it is up to her to contact the Therapist to schedule the meeting. As each day passes during those months, I sit and wonder will today be the day the phone rings?

I feel strongly for having open adoptions. I believe it is healthy for a child to know who and where they came from. I also believe it is important for them to know that they were and are still loved by their Bio Family. These visits do tend to get crowded, both my husband and I attend, as well as Bio Mom and Bio Grandma, you have our two kiddos and the Family Therapist. As our children get older we know the questions will become more challenging, which is why the Family Therapist is crucial. Our kids ages range from two to four, and we have already started the "adoption" conversation. They all know that they were adopted in a court room with a Judge. Do they understand what adoption is? No. But if we slowly include it in our conversations my hope is that there will be acceptance, as opposed to resentment for not telling them sooner.

Are we approaching this the right way? Only time will tell. As their parents we have to be honest with them, or risk losing their trust later in life.

Unfortunately our LeiLei will not have the advantage of  knowing her Bio Mom. We offered her the same Open Adoption, and she refused it. So LeiLei has a closed Adoption, but we are in contact with her Bio Aunt who is raising her half brother. The Bio Aunt adopted the Half Brother, and they want to remain in contact with us.

Getting back to the sitting and waiting for the call. I did receive the call last week, and we scheduled the visit for this week. I must admit I do tend to get a bit "moody" right before the visit. My brain goes into over drive... Will she show up? Will she be clean? Will this be a safe visit? How will my kids react? Up until this point most visits have gone well. Not all, but most.

I ask that you all keep us in your thoughts and prayers this week.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I just want to say thank you...
I have received so many uplifting, loving messages in the past few days. I can say that at this point in my life, I am doing exactly what I am suppose to be doing. It feels so good to be able to say that! I wish the world were a little smaller so I could personally hug and have a cup of tea with all of my friends and family. For now I hope you all know that I love you!
It is our first cool day of the season, so I have been in the house cleaning. I know, its a glamorous life I live!
One of the items on my to do list for the weekend was to make another batch of laundry soap. My mom gave me this recipe about three years ago, and we have been making it ever since. It takes just a few minutes, to make a batch that will last at least four months (for us). It is also a huge money saver, I spend between $12 and $15 on the four ingredients. I do on average a load of laundry every day. So it runs us about 8 cents a load. Pretty good, huh?

1 (4lb box) of Super Washing Soda
1 (4lb box) of Baking Soda
1 (4lb box) of Borax
3 bars of Kirk's Castile Soap
 We place the three bars of soap in the food processor to make it as fine as possible. After you have ground the bar soap mix it with the Borax, Baking Soda, and Washing soda. That's it, your done!
We have a front load HE machine, what we did learn is that with front load machines you do need to remove the "liquid only" tray. If you do not remove the tray it will clog, and back up into the tray. We use an old ice cream scoop for measuring out the soap. We use 1/2 a scoop, which is probably about two tablespoons.
Have fun washing!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Our first Foster Placement

We received our first "call" nine days after we received our license.  I was walking out of Costco and my cell phone rang. They told me they had a baby that was still in the hospital, and that she tested positive for crack cocaine. I really don't remember much of the call, all I could think was oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I do remember asking how old she was, to which they responded "she was born today"... That is when the second wave of oh my gosh, oh my gosh began. Right at the very end they threw in that she was African American, and asked if that was o.k.? Still to this day, I cant comprehend that we live in a society that there is a need to ask, "is that o.k.?"... I called my hubby and together we made the snap decision to bring home that baby. Thank goodness I had not left Costco, because I was suddenly in need of diapers and baby wipes.

It took two days before our baby came home. I nearly crawled out of my skin as the Social Worker drove up our driveway, to deliver our baby. She handed us a baby and a bag, and said we will hear from the childs' Social Worker in a day or two. Those words were no sooner out of her mouth and she was heading back to her car. My hubby and I must have had the 'deer in the headlights' expression because she quickly asked if we had any questions. Um, yes, like one million...  She stayed for about 10 minutes, in all due respect she did look exhausted. As soon as she left we went through  the bag which was filled with items that people had donated to the hospital. To this day it fills me with joy to think people purchase and or make things for little ones that they will never meet. If you ever get the chance to donate a bag or a baby blanket to a hospital, please do. 

JayJay 5 days old

Baby Jayjay was just under 5lbs at 2 days old. I can honestly say I had NEVER held a baby that small. We had to run out and purchase preemie clothes for her.

In retrospect I would say it took at least a year for her to be done with her "withdrawal" phase from her drug exposure. Which included high pitch crying, tight muscle tone, and poor feeding skills. The good thing for us, was that we had no other baby to compare her to. So, we figured all babies were like that. It wasn't until we had our second placement that we realized how difficult she had been.

The first two months everything seemed to be moving in a positive direction as far as her staying with us. Then we received the call, that as an Adoptive Foster parent, you do not want to receive. The courts have decided to place the baby back with her birth mom. Please don't get me wrong... I do believe in reunification, I do believe that there are a small handful of parents that can use this experience to turn their lives around. Unfortunately, most do not. So over the next three weeks we struggled, emotionally. The court did a gradual reunification. So the first week she left us for two nights, the second week she left us for three nights. It was during that second week that we received a call about a seven month old girl, I will post on that later. That third week, was really only two days for us to say goodbye to our daughter. Yes, at that point she was our daughter. That last day was the worst day of my life. I cried all day. My complete melt down began when I saw the Social Worker slowly pull up our driveway. I could not make eye contact with her. Not much was said, she told us she was sorry, but that we should feel good knowing that she would be in a "safe home". Well no, it did not make me feel better.

JayJay a few hours before she left our home
 I spent the next two days completely withdrawn, from life and family. Every time I would open my mouth to talk I would just end up sobbing, my husband was doing a bit better than I, but not much. We were grieving the loss of our child, and panicking about what evil may come her way.  As the days passed, I began to get my emotions under control. By the end of the third week my crying was maybe only once a day. By the fifth week I was maybe melting down once a week. By the seventh week I was coming to grips with the fact that maybe her birth mom would be able to handle life with a baby. Then on day 54 our phone rang and I heard the social workers voice. A voice I had not heard in weeks. She said there was an emergency and they have to remove JayJay, would we take her back. YES! I hung up the phone and sobbed...
The day JayJay came home

The next six months were very routine. I was diligent about getting JayJay all the help she needed with her feeding issues, and her muscle tone issues. We were approaching Christmas when the Social Worker explained to us that a Motion was filed to have JayJay placed with a relative. Oh heck no!!! I could not lose her again. You better believe I was at Court that day, sick to my stomach, but I was there. The Judge ruled that it was in the childs best interest to stay with us. Victory!

JayJay on adoption day

By the middle of January the birth mom and dad had relinquished their parental rights. A few months later she was legally ours.

My beautiful JayJay
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Becoming a Foster Parent

I think if you asked 100 Foster Parents why they made the decision to become Foster Parents, you would end up with 100 different reasons. Let me share with you, our reason.

We were married in 1997, and were in NO rush to have a baby. Did I mention NO rush? Meaning I/we weren't even sure we wanted a child. We decided to put the conversation on hold for 10 years. We figured 10 years would give us time to really get to know each other. When that tenth year came up, we looked at each other and basically said "I'm good, how about you?" meaning we still had no interest in having kids.

Then over the course of the next three years, something changed. We began to have conversations about having a family. I could see us with a family, but I had such a disconnect. I had no desire to be pregnant, nor did I have a need for the child to be biologically mine. I had always played with the idea of adopting a child one day, and that is something I shared with my husband before we were even married, he was always on board with the thought of adopting.

Private adoption was never a discussion we had.  For us it was very clear that if we were going to do this, it would be through the Foster Care System. I made a call the last week in August of 2009 to the Adoptions Social Worker at our local DSHS. We arranged to meet a few days later to discuss the adoption process through the department. During our meeting she explained to me that based on what we wanted to do they would place us in one of three categories, which are Adoptive family, Foster to Adopt family, or Foster family. She was honest with me and said that it would be highly unlikely for us to end up with a child under the age of three if we choose the Adoptive Family category. For a child to be ready to adopt they have to be legally free, and that can take a few years. We chose to go the Foster Adopt route.

After the meeting I signed up for the orientation class. During the class they explain the licensing process. It is at that point when your head starts to spin just a little.  You are sent home with an application to become a Foster parent, and a background check for anyone over the age of 18 living in your home. That is the easy part. I had it filled out and in the mail the next day. Once that was processed we were assigned a Licensor. The Licensor then set up our Live Scan Fingerprints, told us to enroll in a class called PRIDE, and mailed us an enormous amount of paperwork.

Lets talk about the PRIDE class. It is a mandatory class that is offered through DSHS. They discuss everything from the different branches in the department to sexual abuse (including a very hard to watch video). It was while taking this course that I started to doubt my decision. The course that we took was in the evenings and ran for several weeks. My mind started to mess with me at about the half way point. Thoughts like, you aren't strong enough to handle this, your life is pretty decent without kids, what if the child they give you attempts to harm one of your animals, what if the child goes back to the birth parent? I was on the verge of calling it quits, when out of nowhere during one of our classes the instructor began to cry. She was also an adoptive parent, and they had been given some tough news that day. I was witnessing a real person with raw emotion, no longer a DSHS employee. It was exactly what I needed to see. It was at that moment that I realized you did not have to be an emotionless robot to do this. Yes, Foster parents cry...

After we completed PRIDE we had to complete infant CPR as well as an HIV/AIDS training. That took an entire Saturday, but well worth it.

Lets get back to that enormous stack of paperwork. The easy forms were the Background checks, the Child Abuse Central Index Inquiry for Out-of-State agencies, the actual application, and your personal medical statement. Then you realize there is a 15 page packet that they title "Personal Information". It took me many days to fill that one out. Don't forget all of these forms are times two, one for you and one for your spouse. When that was completed we returned it to the Department with the following requested items. A copy of our drivers licenses, copy of our car insurance, an evacuation plan (I made the hubby do that one), and a signed policy agreement.

Then as if that is not enough... We both had to get a TB Test. Since we are on well water, we had to have a Private Well  Water test.  Seems like a lot, right? Once the Social Worker had time to review everything she called us and made our Home Study appointment which is a minimum of two hours in your home. We were well into November by this point. That appointment could be a post unto itself. To sum it up you review your personal statements, you discuss how you would handle discipline, and religion. Then she went through our home to make sure we met all Department guidelines. Well, we passed... Unfortunately the state of California was dragging their feet in completing our background check. Since we had lived at our current location for less than five years, we had to complete a background check from the state that we had previously lived. So we sat and waited for 5 more weeks, to hear back from CA.

Finally a few days before Christmas, it was done! Our license was signed off on December 24th. Merry Christmas to us! From my very first phone call to the Department, to our license being signed off was four months. Nine days later, we received a call about a baby that had just been born... That is a post for another day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Burlap Fall Wreath

Yesterday, I spent the morning taking one child to a doctors appointment for a possible broken nose. Thank goodness the nose is not broken, swollen but not broken. Then running a second child to a feeding therapy appointment.  By the time we got back home I had made the decision to spend nap time in my craft room. Should I have worked on my ever growing to do list? Probably... But mommy needed some craft therapy!

I have been watching all these cute pins on Pinterest for burlap wreaths. I decided to make that my new addition for my fall decorating. I already had a grape vine style wreath, and a yard of burlap. So, I dug in.

All of the posts I saw called for burlap ribbon, but I was not going to spend the money on it. Instead I cut 5, 4" "ribbons" from my burlap, (which probably equates to 75cents, (as opposed to a  $5.00 ribbon).  I did have a fall ribbon that I wanted to incorporate, knowing me I probably bought it last year when it was half off, and I had a handful of sunflowers that have been  repurposed many times.

First I attached the burlap using florist wire.

Then I added my flowers using my trusted hot glue gun.

Last I added my trim ribbon, also attaching it using florist wire.

 The end result... A wreath I am quite happy with!

Hope that inspires you to tackle a burlap wreath...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


You know that moment, towards the end of your gardening season. You have been canning, freezing, cooking and baking for a good solid month. Then you hit the wall... The idea of water bathing one more thing just makes you cringe. Yet, the garden keeps producing. To make matters worse friends feel the need to share their abundance with you. (Don't get me wrong, I will NEVER turn down free food!). Which is how you end up with this sitting on your kitchen counter.

I must say I was close to feeding it to the goats. I didn't even have it in me to make zucchini bread. Then, I found inspiration. A new recipe, and to make the moment even better, I actually had all of the ingredients.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies via Farmgirl Gourmet

Let me add, they took just moments to mix up, and 14 minutes to bake. I had my first yummy batch sitting on the counter in less than 20 minutes. For ingredients and directions click on the link above.
I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Camping with the family

I think summer has finally come to an end, and I am o.k. with that. We spent the last few days of summer, camping. This was a non agenda type of camping trip. On the drive up there I looked at my husband and said, "I don't want to do anything this weekend, I am tired, and I just want to relax". His response..."Perfect"... 

We love KOA camping, most  have playgrounds and some other form of activity for kids. We are fortunate to have a great KOA campground 45 minutes from our home. So that is where we went...

Our kids are quick to remember playgrounds, so not long after we finish setting up, this is where you will find us.

What is a camping trip without a little time on the water?  Our kids LOVE water, so we thought the best thing to do on a 90 degree day is to rent a pedal boat. I must admit the hubby did more pedaling than I, thank goodness! It is a leg burner!!!

At the end of the day these are the moments that bring me the most joy.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Now lets get back to work!