Wednesday, October 30, 2013


When you make a habit of pushing people around, at some point you're going to bully the wrong person and get what's coming to you.  Well August 26th was the day... Jasmine took a toy away from some 6-year old in Sunday school class, and BAM... just kidding.  Bruised and battered from a fight? Nope.  Not even an unfortunate fall off the bike, trip down the steps, or sibling dispute can claim this victory (although I believe I heard Naomi taking full credit for Jasmine's shiner).  Of all things... a spider bite. Post doctor's visit, a $65 spider bite, to be exact.  And suddenly I'm just a wee bit less fond of the great outdoors.

My catch and release policy for all things creepy and crawly found in the house has officially been suspended.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Luke Warm

This time of year drives me crazy.  As a phenomenally frugal individual, it's bad enough when summer creeps around and we have to crank the air conditioner up for the next 3 months... or likewise, when the last leaf has fallen and the thermostat stays glued on the heat setting until the birds come back in March.  During those months, if you listen closely enough, I think you can actually hear the electricity bill going up 12 cents every 15 minutes.  tick...tick... nickel...tick... tick... dime... But that's nothing compared to the dreaded in-between stage that fall and spring bring.  Jacket or no jacket?  Am I hot or am I cold... wait... I need a coat when I leave the house in the morning... but I should pack some shorts in case we go to the park after school.  Yep, it's that financially inefficient time of year when you have to use the heat AND the cool setting in the same day.  Can I get an amen?!  Oh it's horrible.   AC in the day... heat overnight.  And somewhere, the general manager of your local electric company is slapping mother nature high five.  Evil little man.

But there's one good thing that almost makes it all worthwhile... despite the financial trickle that the in-between seasons bring, they also bring with them the perfect weather to enjoy a backyard fire and some "mushyellows" on a stick.  Highs in the 80's.  Low's in the 60's.  And somewhere in the middle, the warmth of the fire feels nothing short of magical.

And as the fire crackles, the wood goes snap... crackle... pop... tick... tick... dime.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Room to Run

It started drizzling before we even pulled out of the driveway, but we kept it moving anyway.  There was no way we were spending another minute indoors with this herd of crazy people.  So off to the pumpkin patch we went.  Fenced-in environment, room to run, swings, tunnels, and plenty of pumpkins for us to hide behind.  Sounds perfect. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Repeat Customers

Guess who's back?!

Right now, we are in one of those stretches to where all the days pretty much blend together, and (without serious thought) I find it hard to tell the difference between what I did just two days ago and what I did 2 weeks ago. It's all a blur. Without a calendar and a 10 minute conversation with Venesa, I honestly can't tell you if it's been 3 weeks or 5 or 6... but sometime during the month of September, our first foster placement found her way back to our home. And we are happy to have her. The situation is still temporary, and I think we're closing in on what will be her second departure, but her stay this time has been decisively longer than the first. The first time, we got away with holding our breath and effectively putting our lives on hold while she was here. But this time around, there was no hitting the pause button. Life went on as normal, and she lost her visitor status as soon as she hit the door.

It still amazes me how quickly we adapt to having one more kid around. Sometimes it seems too easy. I can't figure out if that's simply a product of this particular child (she fits right in) or if it's just a product of the pace of our life (crazy plus one still equals crazy). For now I'm rolling with my theory that going from one child to two is life-changing... going from two to three is noticeable... and three to four... well, at some point, it's all pretty much feels the same. Don't get me wrong... the levels of bickering, whining, and fighting; and the number of arguments, band-aids, baths, and potty breaks have all increased to the nth degree.. along with the amount of time that the time-out chair is occupied, and the number of times we hear the word sorry. It also doesn't help that our foster child, who is somewhere between Naomi and Jasmine in age, is much closer to the former in mentality but has the diction of the latter. That has quickly led to the realization that a two-year-old with a four-year-old's vocabulary will test your patience like no other. But we manage. And we're thankful. And we count it all joy... Well, by "we"... I guess I mean everyone except Naomi, who clearly has it out for t-girl as she defends her position as the baby of the family. They lock horns at least 2 dozen times a day, and it usually ends with a bout of who can say "mine" the loudest. But that's what midday naps are for: a reprieve from cranky babies who would otherwise drive you up the wall.

Anyhow, somewhere between t-girl's first and second stay, we also volunteered for DSS calls a foster care respite. I find it funny that when you look up "respite" in the dictionary it reads, a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant. I think "difficult or unpleasant" might be a stretch in most cases, but otherwise that's exactly what a respite is; a chance for a long-term foster family to catch a break from their foster child for 24 to 48 hours as needed for various reasons. It may be due to previously planned travel, a family event that's inappropriate for the foster child, or... honestly just a good old fashioned break and maybe time to reconnect with your other children to see how the placement is affecting them. Our respite involved 2 more girls, ages 3 and 1 (I'll call them a-girl and baby-t-girl)... and I think it led to Justin giving up all hope of a boy ever walking though our doors (poor guy).   In all, it went well.  Jasmine went bananas over having a baby in the house and she was over the top with her helpfulness. For whatever reason, Naomi didn't seem to feel threatened by either of them.  Maybe that had everything to do with how temporary it was (24 hours), or the fact that she thought baby-t-girl was her own personal, real life baby doll toy.  After all, she did get along fine with t-girl during her first stay and also during her first week back.  But at some point I think it clicked to Naomi that sufficient time had passed and "this girl is still here" ... and that's when the territorial dispute began.

With that said, wish us luck today because the revolving door has spun again.  A-girl and baby-t-girl's foster parents are hitting the road this weekend, and we've volunteered for a 4 day respite.  It's funny that we're not only getting another set of repeat customers; but that they happen to be coming back while our other foster repeat is still here.  Five girls.  One boy.  Did I already say, poor Justin? Oh yeah... poor us, too.  I also find it funny that, with these two concurrent placements, we will officially surpass the capacity of the mini-van; which means that we'll need both cars if we plan to go anywhere this weekend.  With that in mind, I'm envisioning a lot of time at home in our immediate future. You know where to reach us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

For The Record

I guess I have to take back what I said about Justin fulfilling his tear quota.  He woke up this morning and proceeded to cry for 20 minutes about Tasha not being with us anymore.  We asked him if he had a dream or something, and he said no; that he simply woke up and got to thinking about it.  In all, it's just a reminder that people grieve in different ways. On the subject of lost dogs, I guess we're not out of the woods yet.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Best Dog Ever

Big dogs die young. So, when you bring a seven-year-old 110 pound dog into your home, you pretty much know that you're on borrowed time from day one.  And when you bring that dog into a home with small children, you also have to know that some tough lessons are (not just ahead but) right around the corner.

About a week and a half ago, we said goodbye to Tasha.  I'll spare you the details of how rough things had gotten in her last days, and simply say that it was time.  Anderson Animal Hospital was awesome to work with, and I'm appreciative of them and everyone else that lent their support and sensitivity throughout the process.  Prior to being a pet owner, I'm not sure I would have even known enough to do the same for someone else.  As for Tasha, she was our first family pet.  Given that Venesa was afraid of dogs before we adopted Tasha, going from zero animals to having a polar bear as an indoor pet is a mystery all by itself.  And the story of how close Tasha came to being sent back to the pound is another story that's always fun to tell.

To make a long story short, she was an awesome dog.  She was old, not particularly mobile (understatement of the year?) and definitively past her playful puppy years; but somehow that big lump of fluff still found a way to bring joy to our house for two years and a handful of weeks.  Tasha "Stick em Up" Reyes  (Jasmine had a million nicknames for that dog, and I have no idea where she'd get them from... but stick em up definitely took the cake).   April, 2004 to September 2013.

As for the kids, they've done quite well with the loss.  Justin cried just enough to fill his quota as a caring big brother. Naomi was a bit disturbed when we pulled off from the hospital without a dog in the car ("Where's Tasha?!")... but she is otherwise (age-appropriately) clueless as to what actually happened.  Jasmine... well, Jasmine lost her best friend on the planet, and this was made obvious by the river of tears that she cried on two different days.  Day one was the day we left Tasha at the hospital, and day two occurred seven days later when we explained to the kids that Tasha "wasn't alive anymore." Granted, she was euthanized on day one, but we decided to let the kids handle their grief in stages. As expected, within minutes of both meltdowns, Jasmine moved on with the resilience of a typical 4 year old.  And while her memories of "her dog" are both fresh and fond at the moment, her age still makes me wonder exactly how much of this experience she'll actually remember when she grows up.  If my own (lack of) childhood memories are any indication, my guess is that the answer is little to none.  That seems unfortunate at first, but the truth is, no matter how many details she forgets about Tasha as the days and weeks go by... I doubt that we will ever be able to mistake the impact that owning a dog has a had on her because one thing has been made clear from the way that the she cared for, referenced, sought after, and connected with that dog:  Jasmine is officially and certifiably a life-long animal lover.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Avoiding the Inevitable

It's been at least 3 months (and probably closer to 5 or 6) since I've been able to remain consistently current on blog entries.  During that stretch, it has occurred to me on more than one occasion that maybe it's time to bid my beloved online journal goodbye.  After all, it's a blog. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and things of the like; the family blog has swiftly become the 8-track of social media (and everyone under 30 is going, what's an 8-track?).  I mean, it has been over 6 years, 500 entries, 3 child births, 4 funerals, 3 cities, 2 states, a foster child, and countless number of gray hairs since our first blog entry.  Granted, I'm usually one to bet on my own perseverance, but I think I've shocked my own self with the longevity of this endeavor.

But here we are, over six weeks between entries and I've since had countless conversations in my head about the purpose of the blog, and how long to avoid the inevitable.  We went from the inaugural two entries per week (wow... 2007) to a "one or two entries per week" format... to  consecutive weeks of silence, to finally missing a full month altogether (February 2013).   What happened? Well, over that time,  our family has evolved and our lives have simply morphed from one stage to the next; and suddenly I find myself thinking, "how in the world did I ever have time to write so much back then?" ...  It seems that I used to have an absurd amount of quiet time to write and casually flip through and edit photos. The good ol' days (sigh).  Now the only quiet time that I get is during the drive from home to work, and back again... and even that little window of solitude has been invaded by a certain 4 year old who has been going to work with daddy every day for the past two weeks due to behavior problems at home... but, that's a whole different blog entry that will never see the light of day... which brings us full circle to my initial question.  Is it time to say goodbye?

Gosh, it would be sad to end the blog, but suddenly life is simply happening at a pace that doesn't afford me the luxury of written reflection (and no, neither a Facebook status update nor a 140 character tweet about what you had for breakfast qualify as a written reflection).  The irony is, the busier life gets, the more important a journal becomes... because it's that very busyness that we get lost in.  Memories get lost, and appreciation for the moment (every moment) falls by the wayside as we lose scope of the forest amidst the trees.  The finer details of life that you swear you won't forget... those little things each day that seemingly make it all worthwhile... I've already learned that almost all of them become little more than vague notions and forgotten footnotes as we flip from one day to the next on the calendar.  So there's your catch 22:  When we have "plenty of time to write", we probably have less to write about than we care to admit... and on the other hand, when our lives are bursting at the seams to where time for reflection feels like an impossibility, it's that very fullness of life that cries for a blog and demands (begs) to be documented so that every morsel can be savored at the next intermission.

And so, if you haven't figured it out already, I've made my decision: We're going to keep trucking along... or biking along... or crawling at a snail's pace from one entry to the next...  Because no matter the frequency, the truth is that every time I open it, the blog brings me back to basics.  It brings me back to the whys, the whats, and the whens that make every second of the journey worthwhile.   In the back of my mind, the goal is to (someday) find a way to print, bind, and pass on these memories to those evil little children precious tiny humans for which this will all be vague memories, at best... and I'm probably delusional in the extent to which I think they'd actually be interested in reading these accounts... but hey, I've never heard anyone say that they wish they spent LESS time documenting their lives or the lives of their children... as long as that documentation doesn't get in the way of the experience itself.  So break out the compressed air, blow the dust off the keyboard, and let's get cracking on this blog backlog.