Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family Footprints

I love going through pictures, and I especially love going through them with Venesa and the kids. Without that deliberate time to reminiscence and reflect, life can start to seem like this big race to nowhere. But pictures help bring it back. They bring back all of those fantastic moments that we somehow forget about even though they shape our lives. They remind us of how awesome our lives have been.

Anyhow, the point is that I'm up to my usual post-Christmas chore of compiling our year in pictures. 
Usually our blog and the photo archive overlap in an obvious way, but my blogging in 2014 dropped off enough to leave quite a few holes in our digital shoebox this time around.  Our June trip to Florida with the 'rents, impromptu labor day (anniversary) trip to Virginia, and the Collier's November visit to Hartsville are a few things that come to mind that somehow flew under the blog radar.  But by the end of the week (fingers crossed) it'll all be in the photo archives... cataloged for posterity, ready and waiting for our next family stroll down memory lane.  Here's the link

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas and happy 600th blog entry.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Decade

Happy Anniversary!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Socccer, basketball, baseball, flag football... it really doesn't matter. She just wants to compete.

Those poor little boys will never know what hit 'em. This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cloudy Skies

A string of bad luck.  That may be the understatement of the year. The truth is, our family is in the midst of a storm and at this point I can't even tell you how it started any more than I can tell you when it's going to end. The details are all starting to blur, but here's what I can still piece together.

I guess even hurricanes start out as a drizzle.  In October or November, we got notice that our Virginia tenant would be expelled from the housing voucher program; which meant she'd be moving sooner than later.  No sweat (or so I thought). The timing was unfortunate, but that's the nature of the beast.  We'd get her moved out, renovate the house, and contemplate the pros and cons of re-renting or selling the property.  Par for the course.

Then I got a text from a different tenant. The garage door stopped working.  $400 repair.  Not ideal timing but hey, these things happen.  More drizzle.  And then the bottom fell out.  The initial assessment on the Virginia property: $21,600 in damages.  I can only laugh as I read that last sentence out loud because this entry could pretty much end there and be retitled, "financial ruin"... but as it turns out, we were still in the opening act.

The irony is, not less than a month before, we had just begun to reassess all of our assets and retirement plans, etc. in order to make sure we were headed in the right direction (ha ha).  With all three rental properties seemingly secured with long-term tenants, I reached out to a financial advisor in order to explore stock-related options for retirement accounts and college savings.  Well, we never got very far before the rental fiasco hit.  However, we did move forward with dual applications for life insurance.  Yet, what seemed like a pretty wise decision turned out to just be more fuel for the fire. Long story short, both of our applications got denied (well... technically, I got denied and Venesa got a downgraded rating).  How's that for a boost of morale? As I told the financial advisor, there is something distinctly depressing about a company saying they're not willing to bet on you living to the age of 60.  I know it's not that simple, but when you're already down; everything feels like a kick to the ribs.  Granted, it's been made obvious that the denial and re-rating were both due to clerical issues and misinterpretations of our medical charts... but the timing still couldn't be worse.

But back to our financial woes. The repairs on the rental property are in motion, an our hope is to price the house to move quickly and count it a victory if we break even.  In this case, "break even" means saying goodbye to 10 years and $70,000 in equity... 30 of which we just paid down in cash 3 years ago. Ouch. No sooner than when I start getting comfortable with this unfortunate fate, the circuit breaker box in our primary residence started to sizzle.  One tripped breaker, two calls to electricians, and one air conditioning guy later, we isolated the problem to our well pump.  That was Friday at 3pm... which meant we'd go the weekend with no heat in about a third of the house.  Three days and $700 later, we have a new well pump and heat is restored throughout the house.  We endured the weekend! Oh... well... except for that trip to the emergency room on Saturday night.

Rewind to Friday afternoon. Venesa started having sharp pains at the top of her neck, and by Saturday the intensity and frequency had gotten to the point that we had to do something.  Call it an overreaction, but when you're in the midst of a losing streak there are certain risks that are not worth taking.  Yes, I know... few things will help you flush out your bank account like a CT scan in the ER; but it's hard to put a price on the reassurance that your symptoms don't point to something life threatening. In the end, we got sent home with a good report and peace of mind; but of course not before adding to the financial woe tally.

Gosh, I totally forgot to mention that I had the flu.  I think that hit me last Thursday, and the worst was probably over by Sunday morning.  By this morning, I was feeling pretty good.  The well pump was replaced, the heating system was back up and running, and Venesa and I were both on the mend.  I remember laying in bed this morning, feeling better than I had in a week, and literally thinking that this might be that point.  The turnaround.  The pivotal moment.  My energy is back. We weathered the storm, and now we start to move forward and rebuild.

And then the toilet broke.  The van wouldn't start.  And the garage door feel off the hinge.  And it was just 6:43am.

Welcome back to the storm.

Cub Scouts

We've quit and rejoined Cub Scouts about 8 times in the past 3 months.  However, we evidently stayed plugged in long enough for Justin to earn some face paint and graduate from Bobcat to Wolf Trail. Cub scout salute.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Alphabet Soup II

Eight days short of a year ago, we had a little celebration when Justin finished his final lesson on cursive lower case letters.  We made cursive pancakes that we promptly ate one letter at a time.  Evidently those pancakes were tasty because from that point on, every moment of English class became part of Jasmine's personal marathon towards her own edible alphabet (8 more letters and I get pancakes like Justin.... 3 more letters... 2 more letters...).  Well, she made it.  And so the only task left was for mommy to come up with a recipe for something that was allergen free, equally workable, and doubly tasty. And of course, she didn't disappoint.

Congratulations, Jasmine (and mommy).  Now if only I can find a way to make math class equally yummy.

As for Naomi, I don't think we'll have to worry about an encore.  As the foodie of the group, I think she'll "settle" for a pat on the back and a trip to a restaurant to get some real food.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Backyard Colors

The grass is always greener.  And the trees more yellow.  And the flowers more vibrant. I started to hop in the car and drive across town to take pictures of the fall colors... until it occurred to me: what's wrong with the trees on our own property? And so I looked up, and what do you know; it was fall on this side of town, too.  Unfortunately I missed the sweet spot this time around, as the leaves had already gone from vibrant pop to rusty dull.  But there's always next year.  And I'll be ready this time around.  If we stay here long enough, it ought to make for a nice collection of (homegrown) images. It ought to be fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Jasmine's first ride around the block without training wheels. It's moments like this that make it all worthwhile.  If only it didn't all go by so fast.  Here's to growing up at the speed of light.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yellow Jackets

As I was standing in their garage, asking our (former) beekeeper neighbors to borrow this bee suit, I have to admit... I was thinking blog entry the whole time. Ha ha. Now, on to the story.

Every now and then I like to play Paul Bunyan; and so when I came across a dead branch on a dogwood tree by the house, I was happy to go grab an axe.

Swoosh. The axe hit the tree, and the branch hit the ground with a thud.  And less than 2 seconds later, Justin and I learned (the hard way) that yellow jackets build their nests underground.  In this case, underground meant in the exact spot where the branch happened to hit the ground.  We may have well hit a switch that said Attack Mode. I heard the buzzing sound, but I never thought to look down; and they swarmed so fast that I never saw it coming.

I got stung on the eyelid.  A half centimeter up, and it would've been a bull's-eye to the pupil. Strike one.  Justin turned and ran, but he still caught one in the back of the head, right where the neck meets the back of the ear.  Strike two. But I hereby declare, there shall be no strike three. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014



In a word, foster care is sacrifice. That sounds reasonable (and perhaps obvious) on the surface, but over the past 1 year, 2 months, and 4 days; I gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for that word (sacrifice). During that time, we loved, gave, laughed, cried, taught, grew, smiled, embraced, trained, served, and modeled the love of Christ to the best of our ability. Lord knows it was hard at times; often hard enough to make us question if we were even in His will for our family at all. But in the end it was obvious that we were. No one said ministry was easy, and at some point it clicked for us that that's exactly what this is (a ministry). Reunification between our foster child and her bio mom was always the goal, and so we celebrate that for sure. Chances are, we will have plenty more opportunities to pour into the lives of our little miss sunshine, her family, and who knows how many more foster or adoptive placements to come. But for now, I'm over-the-moon excited about taking time to refocus on ourselves, our home, and our relationships as a family of 5.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Almost Five

With T-girl and her bio fam just 5 days from permanent reunification, DSS scheduled one last weekend visit (presumably to ease the transition home).  In the meantime, with an impromptu day trip to Cheraw State Park, we got a preview of our own of what it'll be like to be a family of five again.  I think we were only there for about 3 or 4 hours, but we managed to squeeze in a boat ride, burgers, and a short walk up the dock.  Tons of fun.  I think every time that we go, I find myself asking the same question: Why don't we do this more often?!

Next time we'll have to break out the worms and hooks.

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Entry

In the summer, during my swimming lesson, I didn’t jump. I dove. I learned how to do the turtle and I learned to float. My sister Jasmine does the turtle very well. Our teacher’s name is Mrs. Sherry.