Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bunk Bed Dilemma

I am facing a dilemma. To buy a bunk bed or not. Wisconsin states that foster children must be 4 years old to sleep in a top bunk. There are no rules for non-foster children. I have always told the kids that everyone has to follow foster care rules whether they are a forever kid or not. The only exception is that Jacob still co-sleeps with me while foster children are not allowed to sleep in my bed.

Jacob turned 4 last September and so he is now old enough to sleep in a top bunk. He wants a bunk bed more than anything although I'm not sure he will actually sleep in it more than one night. M can handle the ladder so it won't be a huge safety hazard if he decides to climb up it. I would like to have a bunk bed so that it is there when Jacob decides he is ready to sleep in it. M is quickly outgrowing his toddler bed and I really think he only has a few more months before he will be too big for it. I don't want to move him to the twin bed and then not have a bed for Jacob to sleep in. Even if he refuses to use it, Jacob needs to have his own bed in the house.

So here is where the debate comes in.

1) Do I buy the bunk bed now for when Jacob is ready or wait until M really needs a new bed and Jacob decides to sleep in his own bed every night.

2) Do I buy the bunk beds that separate into twin beds in case they decide they don't want bunks anymore?

3) Do I buy the bunk beds with the slanted ladder that take more room and don't separate but would be safer climbing up and down? These beds are also more expensive.

It's important to me that the boys share a room right now. There are two big reasons for this. One is that I think it is good for bonding. The second is so that I can make the playroom into a spare room (or bedroom for a third kid) when the kids are both old enough that I feel comfortable allowing them to play in the basement without me right there. It will be awhile before I trust them enough to not be within sight or at least easy access but it won't be much longer. I can trust Jacob downstairs now and hope to be able to trust M in another year if not sooner.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Train and Garden Show




Jacob, M and I attended the holiday train and garden show today. It was free from 10 to noon today and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a cold winter day than in the gardens. The boys both loved the trains and the fish. I enjoyed to tropical enviornment and the flowers. I was tempted to head off to Milwaukee to check out the domes but controlled myself. We went shopping instead and I spent more money than I planned. I did get some new shirts for work and some socks for the boys. All things we needed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Photos

Here are the pictures from our Christmas celebrations. We had a wonderful Christmas season. It started with the kids performance at the daycare on Tuesday. Thursday we made Christmas cookies and then spent Friday and Saturday with my parents and brother.







Fire Fighter Christmas

Jacob and M continue to be obsessed with anything to do with fire fighters. M loves to throw his hands in the air and loudly announce "Super Rescue on my way!" This year I tried to diversify the toys a little bit but we still ended up with a lot of fire fighters and fire trucks. Jacob even chose another firestation and fire truck last night to spend his Christmas money on. So here are the totals.

3- small monster truck style fire trucks.
2- large fire trucks.
4- fire fighters
1- fire station
1- medium fire truck
1- fire truck floor puzzle.
1- shirt with a fire truck on it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Wishes

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope all of your Christmas wishes come true. Mine have started already. It began on Wednesday when I made my first tres leches cake. It is a cake that is popular in Mexico and Latin America. I was originally going to make it for a Christmas celebration with P but had to postpone it so Jacob, M and I ate it. It was delicious. Not perfect but delicious.

Yesterday I made a big breakfast for the kids and me. We don't get to stay home and eat breakfast very often. The boys get breakfast at the babysitter's house or daycare and I usually just have a bowl of cereal at work. Yesterday we had scrambled eggs and hash browns.

Jacob and I spent the afternoon making Christmas cookies. They turned out great and Santa ate two when he visited last night. M took an extra long nap yesterday so we saved a few cookies for him to decorate today. Then it was off to church and dinner with my parents and brother.

Today the boys are spending some time watching cartoons and playing with their new toys. Jacob got the fire truck he was dreaming about and M got a giant crane. They immediately traded and are playing nicely with each other. Wusha is tearing apart the old wrapping paper and boxes and making the kind of mess only a 7 month old puppyu is capable of.

Later today we will head to my parents house for a nice dinner and more presents. It is these types of mornings that I really remember how much I love being a parent and how long I waited for these mornings. The joy on the boys faces as Jacob exclaimed, "Santa really does like me!" Yes Jacob. Santa does like you. She also loves you more than you will ever understand.

M had a court hearing that went better than anyone expected. It now looks like his adoption will be finalized in about a year instead of two years. Praise God! Miracles do happen. He will soon be a forever member of my family and never have to worry about being hurt again. That is a miracle by itself.

I also received all but one of my grades yesterday. They are as good as I had hoped for. Just one more semester before I can get my social work certification and hopefully get a job (if not sooner). Then I can decide if I want to continue to go to school full-time or cut back to part-time. For now, I'm just going to be thankful that one semester is behind me and was a success.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tent City?

No! It's a firestation city! Complete with sleep overs and "super fast" responses. Or as M yells, "I'm on my way!"

Recent Highlights



Winter is here and Christmas is only a few days away. I have been extremely busy with the end of the school semester, my internship and trying to spend time with my children. It hasn't been easy but the semester ended last week, the Christmas presents are bought, the laundry is closer to being under control again and life is a little more relaxing. Here are some recent highlights as well as some planned activities for the next couple of days.

- We received about 17 inches of snow the second week of December. It took several hours to dig ourselves out including having the city move some very large tree limbs from the end of the driveway. The picture above is from this storm.

- Jacob and M have visited Santa Clause. Jacob wants a fire truck with a firefighter. M wants a police station but I heard Santa ran out and has another special gift in mind for him.

- The school semester ended and I passed all of my classes (I think). I was able to get just over 240 hours in at my internship and loved every minute of it. I really hope I can get a job in child welfare soon. I would love to go part time for the next 2 years instead of full-time next year and be able to relax in a job I love.

- We have a tentative contract agreement. If it is voted for, I won't have to quit my job. I am relieved but also still looking for child welfare jobs.

- We are going to try to make a tres leches cake for a Christmas dinner tomorrow. We are having a miniture Christmas celebration with P tomorrow night and I wanted a desert from her Mexican culture. I heard these cakes are delicious so I am looking forward to trying it.

- Jacob and M have their Christmas concert tonight. They have been practicing their songs for the past several weeks so I know it will be wonderful. There is something about watching my children perform that makes me so proud I want to cry. I never knew my kids could affect me this way.

- I finished M's first photo montage. I can't post it here yet. His adoption process is just beginning and it will be months before it is final (maybe over a year). I will introduce him to all of my cyber friends then. I am just excited to have his "Welcome to the family" DVD finished. Unless something tragic and unexpected happens, he is here forever and I couldn't be happier about it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa's Watching

Jacob saw Santa shortly after Thanksgiving and has taken his promise to Santa very seriously. Here is how the conversation went.

S: Have you been a good boy this year?
J: Sometimes I'm good and sometimes I'm bad.
S: Well, you better be good until Christmas so I can come.
J: Okay.

I didn't actually hear this conversation but Jacob told me about it afterwards. He is now very concerned about what Santa will think. Here are some of the ways Jacob is trying to impress Santa.

-Friday night Matthew left some megablocks out in the living room. While I was in the shower yesterday, Jacob threw open the door and announced that Santa will be upset if there are mega blocks on the floor when he gets here. I promised we would clean them up. He then insisted that we vacuum and shampoo the carpets for Santa also.

- Jacob wanted to know where the "magic fireplace" would come down when Santa arrived. I told him I did not know since I'm not awake when Santa comes. He thought it was probably by the window and Christmas tree. He was then concerned about finding the perfect place for his stocking.

- Jacob has informed me that we have to leave cookies and milk out for Santa. I don't think he realizes the dogs will probably eat the cookies long before Santa arrives.

- Jacob will sleep in his own bed (he usually refuses and sleeps in mine) on Christmas eve. That way he won't get in trouble with Santa that night. He will go back to sleeping in mine the next night (despite my suggestions that maybe he could just move to his bed permanently at that time).

Christmas is still 5 days away and the anxiety and excitement is building. The house must be perfect for Santa. I am sure he will be happy to help clean that day. Unfortunately, I will lose all Santa leverage on Christmas morning.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Job Search Begins

I have started a job search. I received notice yesterday that they are laying off 18 second and third shift employees and I will be forced to move to second or third shift. I don't know how long the layoffs will last but second and third shift won't work for me long-term. I do not have child care during those hours and there is no licensed care in my community after 6 pm. I don't mind working some evening hours even a few days a week but I can't be out until midnight or 7 AM on a daily basis.

I will be changing shifts on January 1 until either the layoffs end or I can find a new job. I qualify for a training social work certificate now and am only 5 months away from the permaenent certificate. I will do what I have to do to take care of my children and not endanger M's placement and potential adoption. Please send good thoughts and prayers that I can either convince the department that moving me to 2nd or 3rd shift will hurt my family or that I find a new job soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Our New Train



Our friend Heather gave us a train her son has outgrown. I got it after class on Saturday. Jacob climed into the back of the van to look for something and saw it behind the seat. All I heard was "Train!" Thanks for thinking of us Heather!

A Huge Blessing This Thanksgiving

I received a phone call yesterday that allows me to truly believe M will be here forever. He is still a foster child and I cannot post his picture or the news but it was big. I finished his photo montage of his journey through foster care today. Since the final court order may not come for 2 years, I wanted to officially welcome him into the family and recoginize it. If you know us personally and live near us, ask to see it next time we get together. Everyone else will just have to wait another year or so until it is official. Of course, every child that enters my home is a part of the family while he/she is here and M has definitely felt like he is my son for a very long time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I Am Thankful For

I cannot believe it is Thanksgiving already. It seems like I was just outside taking the kids for long walks and swimming. Now it is colder and winter is only moments away (some say snow later this week). I wish the world would slow down and that time was going so quickly. Yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. Here are a few things I am thankful for.

1) My boys. Both of them. I love being their mom and spending time with them. Even on bad days.

2)That my sons no longer have to worry about getting enough food. We haven't had any gorging or other food related issues in over a year.

3) My loving and supportive family. I could never succeed at graduate school without their help.

4) Graduate school. I am very thankful that I was admitted and am succeeding. It is a ticket to a better life for all of us.

5) My internship. I love it. What more can I say.

6) Adoption. It gave me one son and someday might give me another one.

7) Foster parents. The good ones who truly love the kids and help them heal from their past traumas.

8) My children's teachers. They work hard each day to teach my kids and help them. I can see the results in the pride and joy my children have when they show me their latest art project or share their new knowledge.

9)My job. It's no secret that I am preparing to change careers in a couple years (or sooner) but I am still grateful for it. Good and bad days it pays the bills.

10) Food. We live in a country with an abundance of it. I have been in countries where it is scarce and will never be able to take it for granted again.

11) Clean water. It kind of goes with 10. When you have seen people struggling without clean drinking water it makes you realize how good you have it. And chuckle when inmates complain they want soft water and not hard water.

12) For all of those people who are positive role models for me and my kids. Most of you know who you are. We may not say thanks enough but we are always grateful.

There are so many other things I am thankful for. These are just a few. Please take a moment and think about your blessings. I recently saw a sign on a church in Rosendale, WI instructing people to "Count your blessings. Not your problems." Life really does look differently when we stop to realize how blessed we are no matter what challenges we may be facing. Watching my children smile and hearing them laugh are everyday reminders that what is truly important are the people around you not how many possessions you have, what kind of car you drive or how much money is in your wallet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beauty Salon

How children see the world continues to amaze me. One of my favorite things about being a mom is watching my children learn and explore the world. Even simple things like playing rhyming games brings me joy. Last night the boys decided my hair needed combing and styling (sorry no pictures). Here is what each boy said as he combed my hair.

Jacob: Put your head down and hold still. This might hurt a lot but it's something we have to do. Don't move so it doesn't hurt as much. (He then gently combed my hair.)

M: (As he violently combs my hair quickly and hard) This going to hurt. This going to hurt. This going to hurt.

M would then back up and check out his work. When I would ask if it was beautiful he would sadly shake his head and comb some more. After about 4 tries he announced that I was finally beautiful. Maybe he will be a hair stylist when he grows up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update On School

Jacob, M and I continue to work hard at school. I am just finishing watching a 3 hour movie and answering questions. Earlier today I finished an 8 page paper and Tuesday I gave a presentation on social work values and adopting children with special needs. I also finished writing my field log for this week and read about 70 pages in a novel. I still have 3 chapters in my text books to read and write a two page reflection paper. If I have time, I need to start working on my next research paper as well as work on two more presentations that are due at the end of this month. Just thinking about it makes my head spin. I find I really need to write down what I will do each day and then work ahead if I get done early.

While getting all of the above work done, I am still working at my normal job and raising my boys. How am I doing it? Well, I'm not really sure but I know I am doing it. My boys are thriving and I am surviving. There are things that get lost in the shuffle of our lives. An example is Jacob's order form for his school pictures butfor the most part we are making it.

Jacob is really making great progress academically. I have no doubt he could test into kindergarten in the fall but I don't want him to be the youngest so he will wait another year. Here are his most recent progress.

-He can now recognize all of the letters in the alphabet.
-Reading familiar words. He can read mom, his name and the names of all of his classmates. He amazed me by quickly reading his friend's names on an attendance chart at school and moving their names to the correct chart depending on if they are at school or home.
-Able to add and subtract up to 5 and sometimes higher. We had some cows watching us while we were near a farm today. There were four cows at the fence when 3 more walked up. Jacob quickly stated "Mom there were 4 cows watching us. Now there are 3 more so there are 7 now."
-He can spell and write his first and last name.

I am completely amazed at Jacob's progress and hope that it continues. I am also relieved that the boys are doing well with our new schedules.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

God and Hair

I really couldn't tell you how this conversation came up this morning. I was helping the boys get dressed when this conversation occurred. Here is what I remember.

Jacob states something about hair:
Me: Did you know that God knows how many hairs are on your head?'
Jacob: Yes. A lot.
Me: Yes. I don't know how many. Why do you think God knows how many hairs you have?
Jacob: Because I'm beautiful.
Me: Yes you are beautiful. God knows because he loves you so much that he knows everything about you.
Jacob: God gives people different hair.
Me: Yes he does.
Jacob: God has every kind of hair in his tummy.
Me: What do you mean?
Jacob: God grows lots of different hair on his tummy. Then he gives it to people.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Considering Another Child

Jacob has wanted a little sister for a long time. I don't blame him. I want a little girl very badly as well. There are some days where I want it less than others but the desire never leaves completely.

So what is the problem? Well to begin with, I have only been a parent for 2 1/2 years and have 2 children. The youngest has only been here for a little over a year and his process is not completed yet. It won't be for a very long time. Possibly two more years. I wish it would be quicker but I can see it won't be.

The other huge problem is that I am overwhelmed with school, work and parenting. School is giving me the chance to change careers to a job I really enjoy and am looking forward to. I don't want to slow down because I don't want to delay that dream any longer than necessary. I don't want to change careers before I get the degree because it would severely limit my options.

Work is work. It pays the bills so even though leaving would make school and life much easier, it is not an option. I would love to win the lottery but it costs money to play and I have better things to throw my money away on.

So, I will have to wait for my daughter. I will find her someday. It just won't be today or even this year. It probably won't be until I settle into a new job. Unless I can find some rich man to marry and support us in the meantime :) Just kidding.

Next month is national adoption month. It is a good reminder of how blessed I am and a chance to celebrate my children and my family. M's case will progress, school will be over in just a few weeks and I have a week off work coming soon.

New Pictures and Updates!

I finally got my wireless internet working. I had to change internet companies to do it but am excited. I haven't had internet at home for about a month. It was really making getting my school work and other business difficult. Now, I can play and work at home. Yipee! The following are pictures and updates of our recent activity.

Halloween 2009

We started our halloween festivities yesterday. Some of the parties are calling them fall harvest parties but they all involove treats and costumes so I call them all halloween parties. Last night was our first one.

I took Jacob, M and our friend P to the YMCA last night for their halloween party. The kids made treat bags at the first stop and then headed off to the gym. They loved playing the games and picking out the small toys and juice offered. After games, we headed over for face painting and then a few minutes to the dance. Jacob would have stayed until the end but M and P were exhausted. M wasn't really moving around much and I could tell he was getting close to a meltdown so we left about 30 minutes early.

I took several pictures but they all have M or P in them. Here are 2 of Jacob as a fire fighter. M was a police officer and P was a movie star.



Pumpkin Patch Photos

Here are some photos of our recent trip to the pumpkin and playtime farm. We went with our church about two weeks ago. The kids had about an hour to play on the farm before we sat down to a bonfire. I roasted hot dogs for all of us and then made some smores. I ate my smore the traditional (and best) way. They boys decided they wanted to eat them "raw" and in pieces. We all thought they were delicious. The afternoon ended with a hayride to the pumpkin field where we picked out two perfect and small pumpkins. We went back a few days later and got a medium sized pumpkin for a soup I want to try.



Jacob's Birthday Photos

Here are the photos from Jacob's much anticipated birthday party at the YMCA earlier this month. The kids started in the swimming pool. After about an hour, we moved to the party room for cake and jucie. We finished the party in the inflatable in the gym. We didn't take time to open presents at the party so we met Grandpa and Uncle Chuck at their house and opened them there.




Monday, October 19, 2009

Praying For Bad Guys

Jacob and I said our normal prayers last night. As part of the prayer, Jacob and I list people we want God to watch over and care for. When I asked Jacob if that was everyone he stated, "and bad guys." I asked him what if he wanted God to watch over the bad guys. He stated, "Yes and help them be good."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tidbits

Just some little tidbits.

-Jacob and I read a Halloween alphabet book together last night. I had him read the letters to me. He only missed 3 in the entire alphabet! Much better than a few months ago when I wondered if he was going to have difficulty learning it before he started kindergarten.
-Jacob can now write his name correctly without any help. He can also spell his first and last name and my name "Mom"
-Jacob has now learned the concept of how to add. He can add "one more" to any number if he can see it visually on his fingers.
-M can pick out the letters B and C. It helps to have an older brother working on it with you.
-Jacob woke up with a bad sore throat and cold this morning. When I suggested Uncle Chuck gave it to him he stated, "No. I have my OWN cold."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still Growing

Jacob woke up again today with growing pains. He stated they started when he was walking around Grandpa's house last night. It doesn't surprise me since he is eating everything in sight again. He ate three hotdogs for dinner last night alone!

I measured Jacob this morning and he has grown another 1/2 inch since the beginning of September. He has now grown 2 inches since June. I am sure that he is going to shoot up again since he is eating so much lately. He was shorter than most of his class last Summer but is now as tall or taller than all but 2 of the kids. His height 2 weeks ago was about the 50th percentile but that was before his last growth spurt.

M is also growing like a week and doing his best to keep up with Jacob. Of course, he is younger and suppose to be growing a little quicker. M is taller than all of the kids in his class and most people think he is 3 rather than 2. He is still about 3 inches shorter than Jacob but weighs more. His growth appears to be slowing though. He hasn't had a huge spurt in about a month and he hasn't been eating as much. He is showing signs of getting ready to get his last two 2-year-old molars in though. It will be wonderful when that is done.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We are ready...

FOR HALLOWEEN!

Jacob, M,and our friend P finished buying Halloween costumes last night. We are going to our first Halloween party of the season in just two weeks. So what do an 8-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old boy want to be for Halloween?

Jacob- A fire fighter
M- A police officer
P- A movie star in a very beautiful silver dress.

All three kids are very excited and eager to wear their costumes. I can't wait to get some pictures. Our biggest dilemma of the holiday? Trick-or-treating at the zoo is the same day as the party at Grandma's church. I guess we will have to see how the weather is and make our decision then. So the party count is 2 Halloween parties and trick-or-treating Halloween night. It should be a great time!

Still Struggling With Death

My kids both have fears of being orphaned. Jacob still remembers waiting for "a new mommy." He went through a phase last year where he regularly told me he never wanted to have to find a new mommy again. It breaks my heart to think of how many children are out there waiting for new mommies.

Last night I was not feeling well. I told Jacob that we were going to bed a little early because I did not feel well. He immediately became quiet and asked if I was going to die. I told him I wouldn't and that I would feel better in the morning. He stated again that he doesn't want to find a new mommy. I reminded him that he would live with Uncle Chuck if anything ever does happen to me. He stated he doesn't want to live with Uncle Chuck. He wants me to be his mommy. I hugged him and let him sleep with me. He laid touching me all night and asked this morning if I felt better. I was touched that he was so worried about me but also sad that a child his age still worries that he could be orphaned again.

M has been expressing similar fears lately but his don't deal with my death. He told me last week, "Mom, I choose you." I asked for what. He stated, "To be my mom." He also went through a few weeks when I went back to school where he would ask if I would come back for him. He would physically relax and begin playing when I assured him I would.

These two boys are just like so many other little boys and girls out there. They just want to know they are loved, cared for and have a forever family. M is still a foster child but I really hope that he won't be for much longer. I heard last night it could be a couple of years before he is "out of the system." For his sake, I hope it goes much quicker than that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Update

Sorry I have been quiet lately. My internet isn't working at home so it is difficult to update. That and trying to work full-time, go to school full- time and raise two wonderful little boys. The past two weeks have been a blur but here is what I remember of them:

-Jacob had his birthday party last weekend. I have some wonderful pictures to share with you once I have reliable internet again. The party was wonderful! We went to the YMCA where Jacob had seven friends and some wonderful moms join us. Our good friend, Diane, also came along and was a huge help to me. The kids had a great time swimming, eating cake and playing in the inflatable obstacle course in the gym. The kids ranged from 2 to 8 years old. They all had fun with each other and most knew each other before the party. I haven't decided what to do about M's birtday next May but a party at the Y is a definite possiblity.

-Jacob had an appointment with the eye specialist. The eye doctor was the last person to convince that he doesn't have a terrible disease called Sturge Weber syndrome. Thankfully, he doesn't. There are no signs of glaucoma or other problems. No seizures or muscle weakness and no signs of brain lesions. Woo hoo! The doctors and I already pretty much knew this but apparently milder cases can sometimes hide until around age 4. He is now 4 so it has been ruled out. We don't have to see the eye specialist for 2 years. We will continue with laser treatments to the port wine stain but that is to help prevent problems and for cosmetic reasons.

-M is still with us and his case is progressing. It will actually be taking up a lot more of my time and energy in the near future. Of course, I can't discuss it here except to say it is progressing. I love M and can't believe how far he has come in the short time he has been with me. He definitely fits into the family well and feels like he belongs here. Like all children, he needs permanency and hopefully he will have it soon.

-Jacob continues to do well in his preschool program. He is now writing his name, spelling his first and last name and reading most of the alphabet. I am no longer worried about learning disablilities or other things related to his history and malnutirition. He is a surviver and shows it every day. Both of my kids are amazingly resilient.

Tonight we are off to a play farm to celebrate fall. Then Sunday we can go back with our church if the weather is nice. It is suppose to rain and be cold though so I guess we will wait and see what happens.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homework

Graduate school is a lot more work than I anticipated. I am happy to say that I am keeping up so far but it is not easy. I can see myself getting into serious trouble if I don't stay on top of everything. This is a list of what is due this week.

-Read 5 chapters from textbooks.
-Read 8 chapters from a novel.
-A 2 page paper on what I read.
-A 2 page paper on what I did at my internship.
-A 9 page paper on what I need to learn this school year.
-A 15 minute presentation on my family's social history.

I have everything finished except 1 1/2 textbook chapters due on Tuesday. Then I can start on next weeks assignments. I have one less paper and don't have to do a presentation but need to start working on future papers and presentations. If you have been wondering why we have been quiet lately and not around much, now you know. The kids are watching cartoons and I am writing papers. With occassional breaks for a great game of Candy Land or a walk around the block.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Jacob!

Jacob is 4 years old! I cannot believe that the baby I brought home two and a half years ago is now a preschooler. I am proud but also a little sad about how fast he is growing up. Here is a little about who he is becoming.

- He is now 40 inches tall. This is 12 inches taller than when he came home.
- He weighs about 33 lbs. Yes he is skinny but he definitelly has a healthy appetite also.
- He can ride a 16 inch bike.
- He knows the entire alphabet.
- He can spell and write his first name. He can spell part of his last name.
- He can read a handful of letters including his name.
- He can count to 16.
- He still loves trucks and cars.
- His favorite toys are Little People Toys.
- He still loves swimming.
- He really wants to play baseball.
- He still adores his grandpa.

I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store for us. Jacob is growing so fast and amazes me more every day.

We celebrated his birthday a little bit last night since I have class tonight. Jacob loved getting a cake and having everyone sing to him. He giggled the entire time. He is having a small party tonight with family while I am at school. His big party isn't for a couple weeks due to my school and work schedule. I didn't have my camera last night so I don't have any pictures. I will post some after his party though.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

School Update

Jacob and I are well into our new school year. It has been an adjustment for all of us. Jacob felt like he was under a lot of pressure at the beginning of the year. Jacob is the oldest child in his class and is repeating the 3-year-old program so that he will be in the same class as the other kids who will be starting kindergarten with him. His teacher wanted to help him feel special by emphasizing that he knows more than the other kids and that he is her big helper. Instead of inspiring him, it made him feel like he had to be perfect and he quickly became frustrated. His behavior deteriorated to the point that I was receiving notes and emails from his teacher about his behavior.

I spoke to the school and the director about his behavior. It was actually the director who realized how much pressure his teacher was putting on him. She spoke to his teacher and the problem was corrected. He is now doing wonderful and is very happy to be slightly ahead of the other kids in the room. He didn't need adults to tell him how he was doing. He could see it for himself without the pressure.

I started my internship on September 2 and started classes last week. I don't really see the kids on Tuesdays because of my class schedule. I drop them off at daycare at 6:15 AM, my parents pick them up after daycare and watch them until I get home around 11. It is a very difficult day for all of us. I am really hoping that we will adjust to it but I know it will be difficult. I am hopeful that this is the only semester we will have a day like that. The other days I have class the kids stay with a sitter near the university and I get to spend time with them before class.

I only have class two nights a week and every other Saturday. It is not an easy schedule but much better than some of the other universities (closer to our house) with class four nights a week and Saturdays. We will adjust and pretty soon this will just be a memory. I just keep reminding myself that this degree will get me a career I enjoy and a better working schedule. That means a happier mom with more time for the kids in just a couple years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where are all the men?

I begin taking classes for my master's degree in social work tonight. It is a five semester program so I should graduate in August 2011. Just one month before my precious little boy starts kindergarten!

I currently work in law enforcement where it is very male dominated. Think stereotypical male macho attitudes and that is what I hear and see daily from some of my co-workers. Don't get me wrong. They are all great guys that do a great job but they are definitelly very conservative and into the typical male activities such as weight lifting, hunting and motorcycling. They often joke about who is the toughest, strongest, etc...

Now, take my new career. I have just started to get involved but can already see a huge culture shock (and welcomed culture shock) coming. I was able to see the class roster for all of my courses today. There is one guy in my program as a first year student. One. At my internship, I have met a few but not nearly as many men as women. The textbooks are all clearly more liberal than conservative so I am guessing the professors will be as well.

It will be a whole new experience for me. A world I have not been involved in much for the past 10 years or so. And a world I miss. I may not be as liberal as some of the people I have met but I am definitelly not as conservative as some of the people I work with now. And very few men! That will be a change by itself. I am ready for change though and very excited.

So tonight I am one step closer to my new career. Although, I probably won't be meeting any future husbands while attending class...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Educating About Ethiopia

I believe very strongly that Jacob has the right to know as much as possible about Ethiopia. I know I can't teach him about Ethiopian culture the same way an Ethiopian can but I do what I can from our mid-west home. Yesterday was a great opportunity to teach Jacob to have pride in his birth culture as well as teaching some area children about Ethiopia as well.

Jacob had a great time at school yesterday. His teacher talked to the children about Ethiopian New Year and Jacob proudly told his classmates about the holiday. They shared a special treat in the afternoon.

Last night we took our friend, P, to an Ethiopian restaurant. This was the first time that P had ever had Ethiopian food. She enjoyed the mamoosa as well as the different dishes we had purchased and shared. Jacob was very happy to see the owner of the restaurant and tell him that he was born in Ethiopia. He told the owner he liked doro wat in Ethiopia but did not like injera. This is a story that Jacob has heard many times in the past couple of years and he always follows it up with how much he likes injera now.

It was a lot of fun to watch Jacob learning more about his birth culture and beginning to be able to teach his friends about it. I also enjoyed seeing the pride in his face as he told people stories about his life in Ethiopia. We don't have many stories but we do have a few that I make sure he hears whenever we discuss his life in Ethiopia and his birth family (which we discuss often).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy New Year!

No. I didn't hit my head and forget what the date is or the time of the year. It is the Ethiopian New Year and a holiday in our house. Jacob and M took green, yellow and red (Ethiopia's colors) to school today to share with their friends. I spoke to Jacob's teacher earlier this week and they will be making an art project in honor of Ethiopia and talking about the holiday during group time today. Tonight, we will be eating at a local Ethiopian restaurant and enjoying some great food. We are taking our friend, P, with us and letting her learn a little about the culture as well.

So to all of our family and friends from Ethiopia or touched forever by Ethiopia, happy new year! May 2002 be a great year for all of you. May it be full of happiness, health and prosperity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Our Weekend In Pictures

A trip to the zoo, time at the park, a new bike and lots of time with family. It was a great last weekend of Summer.





Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our Last Completely Free Weekend

This is our last completely free weekend until at least Christmas. I will have some weekend days free in the next few months but not whole weekends. My internship has already started, I am still working full-time and classes start in one week. One of my best friends is getting married next weekend and of course, I am working both days.

I told Jacob that he wouldn't have any babysitters for the next three days. He immediately grinned and said, "So you get to spend time with your kids!" Yes. I get to spend three wonderful days with my children. I have big plans for the next three days but they are subject to change upon our whims. Here is a tentative agenda.

Friday:

-We went swimming at the Y again. I love that pool! I am able to get both of my kids in under my membership until Jacob turns 5. Then it is just a little more money each month for a single-parent family membership.

-After we left the pool, we headed to Toys R Us. Jacob has been talking for about a month about his new Dora bike he would be getting for his birthday. He was set on it until he saw another little boy on a Cars bike and the matching Cars helmet. It was love on first sight. I agreed that it could be his birthday present. We are buying it early so that he has a little more time to enjoy it before the cold winter weather arrives.

Saturday:

-This morning we are spending a relaxing morning at home. I plan to get some cleaning and laundry done. I hired a woman to come in and clean every two weeks but the house starts getting pretty bad by the end of the two weeks if I don't do some touch ups during the two-weeks. Mostly just picking up whatever the kids and dogs get out to play with.

-After (hopefully long) naps, we will be heading to Toys R Us to pick up Jacob's new bike. I realize I have been horrible about posting (and taking) pictures lately but I promise to take some of Jacob on his new bike. It is a huge moment in our house. Jacob's first new big kid bike.

-Tonight is church. I love the contemporary Saturday night service so we attend even when we will be home on Sunday mornings. We have been attending this church for just over a year and are finally starting to really feel comfortable there.

Sunday:

-What's better than going to the taste of the city downtown this weekend. It should be great. I'm a little nervous about taking the kids down there when it will be so busy but it should be fun. There will be live music, lots of good food and hopefully fun.

Monday:

-What should we do on our last free day of Summer? This is the day I really don't know what to do about. I haven't taken the boys to the Milwaukee zoo and I really want to. That is a possibility. Or I might just take them to our local zoo. It is a tough decision and one I am very grateful to have to make.

Tuesday I go back to work and then start to juggle work, school and parenting. That I'm not looking forward to but it will be worth it in the end. Hopefully more options for my children.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A New Routine

I started my internship today! It was a great first day and I learned a lot. I am now exhausted but feel great after getting home. The boys did really well too. Our new schedule has them staying at daycare until about 5:15 PM on the days I do my field work. When I work my normal paying job I usually run some errands and pick them up between 4 and 4:15 so it is a change for them.

Jacob and M handled the change well. They enjoyed having an extra hour with me in the morning while we got ready for the day. I told them both I would be a little late picking them up but not to worry. They didn't. Jacob was reading books with his teacher and was upset that he had to leave. M was wrestling with his teacher and appeared to be winning :) I found him jumping on top of her and both of them laughing and giggling. He didn't stop until I said I was leaving. I think he would have stayed all night if I would have let him. He also gave his teacher a hug good-bye which I have never seen him do before.

We got home tonight and I made an easy dinner. We ended up eating about 45 minutes later than normal. I then folded and put away a load of laundry, started another load, did a load of dishes and started the dishwasher. The boys are playing happily and we will start our bedtime routine in just a few minutes.

Not bad for a first day and a change to our routine. I go back to work tomorrow and then hope to have a four day weekend. I'll find out tomorrow if I got Friday off work but it looks good. Then it is back to work until Wednesday when I hope to be able to go to my internship. Again, I won't know for sure until Tuesday but it looks promising. Wednesday I am scheduled to attend a couple of meetings that I really don't want to miss. My paying job has to come first though so we will see what happens.

The new school year is off to a great start. Classes start September 14 so we are able to slowly adjust to our busier lives. I think it will go well though.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What I Have Learned As A Foster And Adoptive Parent

I cannot believe I have been a parent for almost two and a half years now. It seems like just yesterday I was in Ethiopia scared to death and excited to meet my new son. Jacob was 17 months old and still had the little wobble that young toddlers have when walking and trying to learn how to run. I was worried he would fall down the stairs as he learned how to climb them. I still remember calling the hospital in a panic when he woke up at midnight with his first bloody nose. It only lasted a few minutes but it seemed like forever for me. Or the time I called poison control because Jacob found a long lost bottle of Tums. That's when I learned that a child needs to eat a very large amount before it is a concern. I don't remember the exact number but it was something like 25.

Now Jacob is handing out invitations to a party to celebrate his fourth birthday next month. M has been with us for a year and will hopefully be here for many more. I have learned a lot over the past two years and have a lot more to learn. Here are some of the things I have learned.

- Children hit there heads a lot. And live.
- If you think you're child won't say or do something. He will prove you wrong. Every time.
- There is no one in the world who can make me laugh like my children. Sometimes they make me laugh on purpose and other times on accident. The end result is a reminder about how much fun it is to be a mom.
- Children make you rethink every decision you have ever made and will ever make. They just put things in a whole new light.
- It takes about 1 month for a child to begin to feel comfortable in the home and begin to work through the grieving process to take place. It takes about a year for a child to actually be completely attached and feel like they have always been there (or at least in my home).
- The first 6 weeks with a new child are difficult. The first six days are the hardest.
- Children come up with some amazing stories and ideas. It is fun to just listen to them and even more fun to try to join them in their imaginary worlds.
- Three year olds know everything. Just ask them.
- All children can show great improvement in a short period of time in a stable and loving home. They may have permanent and long-term needs but they are also capable of great change.
- Neglect and abuse have long lasting effects but those effects can be minimized with a loving and stable home.
- Children are not responsible for the behaviors due to their past abuse and neglect. Parents must be patient and help them heal so that they can work on the poor behaviors.
- All kids deserve loving and forever homes. All kids have the right to be safe and feel safe. It's not always easy to make a new child feel safe but it is a great feeling when a child shows that they finally feel secure.
- Seeing a child with food issues throw food during a tantrum is one of the best feelings in the world. It means progress is being made.
- Looking at pictures and seeing how a child's smile gets bigger and his eyes brighter the longer he is with you is an amazing gift.
- Every day holds new challenges and even greater rewards. It is important to recognize the child's progress on the good days as well as the bad days.
- I love my children more than I ever knew was possible. Whether a child is with me for a few days or years does not change my love for that child. God sends me children to love and I will be forever thankful.
- Children grow up way too fast. So treasure every moment you have with them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesdays Activities

I had inservice yesterday. Basically we practiced driving squad cars around a race track, listened to a presentation on suicide and then practiced shooting guns for a little while. Nothing too strenuous but being outside all day always seems to drain my energy.

Our fabulous house cleaner came over yesterday and worked her magic. I always love coming home when I know she has been there. I had been meaning to shampoo the living room carpet since we are still housebreaking the puppy. He doesn't have many accidents anymore but I just couldn't be sure he hasn't had some that I didn't find. One of the nice things about small dogs is that their accidents are small. That also makes them harder to find if you don't actually see the event. The carpet is now drying and looks much better.

Jacob has been growing all summer. He is now about an inch taller than at the beginning of June. I keep thinking he will slow down but he hasn't shown any signs of it yet. Last night he ate a cheeseburger, french fries, apples, grapes, walnuts, yogurt for dipping, crackers and potato chips. A few weeks ago I watched him consume three large slices of pizza in one sitting. I just shake my head in amazement. I am not looking forward to when he is a teenager.

Jacob and M assisted me with vacuuming and shampooing by following me around the house with their toy vacuums. By the time we were finished, it was time for bed. Jacob didn't take a nap at school like he normally does and M was a little cranky so I decided it was a good night for everyone to go to bed early.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday

How I wish I had pictures. I really need to get back into the habit of carrying it with me. Here is a review of yesterday even though I don't have any pictures to go with it.

-I worked during the day and the kids stayed with one of their weekend babysitters. The kids had fun playing in the yard. The dad kept throwing a football over the house that the boys would then run and try to find. Apparently they did this for most of the afternoon. I know they were still having lots of fun when I arrived to pick them up.

-We had our work picnic last night. I was tired and wasn't really feeling up to going. Jacob really wanted to go and it was free so I decided we would make an appearance. I am glad we did. Jacob and M got bubbles that they quickly decided were fun to pour out and use as soap instead. They refused to eat dinner since it was only about 4:00 so I let them fill up on popcicles and cookies instead. I know. I won't get any mothering awards for it but the boys had fun so I didn't really care. It was only one night. I really enjoyed the food though and left stuffed.

- We saw some neighbors we hadn't seen for awhile when we got home. I love summer and seeing neighbors outside. I'm not sure where everyone has been hiding this summer or maybe we just haven't been home to see them. Last night we were able to catch up for awhile.

- We headed over to my parents' house for a little while later in the evening. Of course, they were just getting ready to eat when we arrived. The boys managed to get enough food to create a well-balanced diet of hotdogs and fruit. Much better for them than what they ate earlier in the day.

- Jacob asked me to play a game with him. That is something we hadn't done together before. He always lost interest fairly quickly and would decide to play his own way. I would get frustrated and quit. Last night was different though. We played Candy Land and Hi-Ho Cherry-O. He managed to win at both without cheating. I was amazed at his beginner's luck and promised to play again soon. M had a lot of fun trying to interfere with the game by stealing pieces but eventually settled down to just playing with the extra cherries and buckets with Grandma.

- M had a great time working on puzzles with Uncle Chuck and then playing with a flashlight. It amazes me that his favorite toy is a cheap flashlight and not one of the more expensive toys that looked so fun in the store. Simple is definitelly better sometimes. I enjoy watching the many things he can play with a stick or with a flashlight. It really gives me a glimpse into his mind and what he is thinking. I can see why play therapy can be so effective.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Great Message

I have to admit that we haven't gone to church lately. We have either been on vacation or at birthday parties for about the last six weeks. We were finally free tonight and I really wanted to attend. I am so glad I did.

Pastor Scott told the story of the disciples feeding 5000 men with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He reminded us that God will always provide for us and we don't need to worry about getting the things we need to do His work. It was such a great message for me to hear this week. I am nervous about beginning my internship and trying to juggle school, parenting and work.

At the same time, I recently interviewed for the exact job I want to get when I graduate from school. If I was given this job, it would mean that I would be able to delay graduate school until my children are a little older. I would also be able to use graduate school as my continuing education hours and most likely have my job be supportive and flexible (or at least more flexible than my current job).

I am very anxious to hear about the job. I should hear something next week. If I don't get the job, then I will begin my internship in just a couple of weeks. Another very scary new beginning. I am feeling a little overwhelmed and nervous about finding out if I have what it takes to be a good social worker.

It was so great to be reminded that if God wants me to work in social work and child welfare, He will give me (or help me learn) the skills I need to be successful. It may be through school or through a new job but He knows what is best for me. I just need to be patient and trust that everything will work out how it is suppose to. I know that changing careers is the best thing for me and for my children. I will be happier at work and the schedule will be much better for raising my sons.

Swollen Toes

Jacob and a friend were playing outside last night. They had the styrofoam and cardboard box from our new vacuum and were playing some kind of a game with the dog. I really didn't think much about it since they were playing nicely and nothing seemed wrong.

I called the kids in to the house to take the friend home after about 20 minutes. Jacob stated that his toes hurt and he wanted six bandaids. I glanced at his feet but didn't see any blood so I told him we would look into it when we got home. About an hour later, Jacob stood up in the driveway to walk into the house and began crying. He stated that his toes hurt very badly and he couldn't walk.

I carried him into the house and realized that the bottom of all five toes on one foot and one toe on the other were bright red and slightly swollen. My first thought was that he had stepped on something and was having an allergic reaction. I applied hydrocortizone cream but it just didn't have much of an effect. If anything, his toes looked more inflamed. I called the on-call nurse but she couldn't really offer any suggestions. She thought maybe they were bruised but it just didn't look like it to me. Especially since it was just the bottom of his toes.

I questioned Jacob several times last night but couldn't figure out what happened. This morning I finally asked him exactly what he was doing when the pain first started. He stated he was rubbing the edge of a piece of paper over his toes. Ah ha! The swelling was down this morning and I was able to see several little papercuts on his toes. I gave him some brand new cushy socks and told him to leave his shoes on today. I also suggested that he not rub paper over his feet and explainied that his toes hurt because of the paper cuts.

Hopefully his feet will feel better tonight. I am grateful it was nothing more serious and hope he learned a lesson from it. Similiar to when M jumped head first into a door and discovered that it hurt. I don't think either will be doing those things again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Child Welfare Beginnings

I am now one step closer to beginning a new career in the child welfare system. I have always known that my calling is to work with children. My first major in college was elementary education. I took a part-time job in private security that eventually led me to law enforcement but my favorite calls are always those that involve children.

As the years have gone on, I have remained committed to children. I mentor three girls as well as have my own children. I love being a foster parent and have learned a lot about working with the children and families. The past eight years in law enforcement has helped me prepare to relate and understand the families in the foster care system. As an adoptive and foster parent, I understand the unique challenges that come with these unique parenting situations. I have been active in a single mothers by choice group and of course have experience as part of an multiracial family.

It seems only logical that my new career be in child welfare. I really believe this is where God is calling me to work. I could be wrong but I really feel this is where I belong.

I had an interview yesterday for an internship about an hour away from my home. I will be working as an ongoing social worker in the child protective services unit. Too say I am excited is an understatement. I want to start yesterday. I want to quit my current job and just volunteer there for as many hours and on as many cases as they are willing to let me have. Unfortunately, that isn't possible since I still need to support my family and have a source of income if M's case proceeds to an adoption.

For now, I am just enjoying the knowledge that I am one step closer to my new career. I will learn a lot over the next several months. I will qualify for my social work license at the end of the school year and have a lot of options. Until then, I am excited to finally be on the path I need to travel to make my life and my children's lives better.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I Am A Mom According To Jacob

Jacob and I were talking this morning about life in general. I told him that I was going to stay in bed all day. He stated I had to get up because I had an interview. I told him he could go for me. He stated, "I'm not big enough to work the computers yet." He then stated that I have to get up and be a mom. I asked him what a mom does. He stated, "You cook meals for me. I can't cook my own food. I'll get hurt." I agreed that I would get up and be mom. He then stated I am his mom because "Asnake (the orphanage director in Ethiopia) gave you to me." He stated that he wanted a new mommy so Asnake gave me to him so he would have a mom.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation Pictures

Vacation at Yellowstone was wonderful. I am still trying to catch up. It seems like my to do list is getting longer rather than shorter. I have the next three days off work so I hope to get caught up a little bit. I also plan to find some time to just relax by myself since that hasn't happened in awhile. I can feel the stress beginning to build up which means it is time to escape for a couple hours.

Enjoy the following samples of some of the things we saw in Yellowstone. I was nervous that the younger kids wouldn't enjoy it but I was wrong. They did great in the car and were very good in the park.









Thankful For Good Daycare

Thre is nothing more comforting than knowing your children are well cared for when you are not there. I have spent quite a bit of time at my children's daycare and am constantly amazed. The teachers are very patient even when the children are having some very rough days. I have never seen a teacher lose her patience despite the best efforts of the children.

Many daycares are very inflexible with the hours the children are allowed there. They limit the children to a certain number of hours a day and do not like when parents are changing the children's hours. I emailed the director today because I need my children to attend 10.5 hours on the days I have my internship this year. The daycare director stated it would not be a problem. They don't complain if I pull the kids out early or call an hour before pick-up to state I am working late. As a single parent, I really appreciate their flexibility. It is so nice to know that I don't have to worry about the boys while I try to juggle all of the rest of life's responsibility.

Only 4 more weeks until school starts and 3 weeks until my internship begins.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Settling In

We have been back from vacation for a few days now and are finally beginning to settle back into our normal routine. It seems like life has just been really crazy lately. When I picked Jacob up from daycare yesterday he stated, "It is going to be another crazy day today. Isn't it Mom?" Here are some highlights from our lives the last few days.

-The biggest project I have going right now is trying to clean my bedroom and get laundry done. One of my cats had an emergency while I was gone. My friend found her and we were able to get her medical care so that she is fine now. Before she was found, she managed to urinate in my closet, laundry basket and pull everything off of my dresser and out of my closet. It was a huge mess to come home to. I decided it was a good time to do a very complete and detailed cleaning since everything was torn apart anyway.

-Jacob had another dermatology appointment on Wednesday morning. We were the first appointment of the day at the surgery center. That allowed us to drive to where I will have an interview for an internship. The internship will be in child protective services and should be a great experience. Jacob and I found the place without a problem. On our way home, we stopped for ice cream and a hair cut. We also picked M up from daycare and ran a few more errands.

-I returned to work on Thursday. I was planning to go home after work and try to tackle some of the laundry and other chores from vacation yet. Instead, I received an email from M's social worker. She was working on a report and wanted to see him. I agreed that she could stop by that night. She ended up not arriving until 5:30 PM and left around 6. I decided it was way to late for grocery shopping before dinner so I took the kids to Taco Bell. By this time, I was exhausted so we stopped to say hi to my dad on the way home. It is an easy way for me to get some help entertaining the kids and a chance to relax a little bit without worrying about all of the unfinished chores.

-Yesterday we saw P again. You may remember she is my little sister through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. We hadn't seen her in about 3 weeks because of vacation. I still haven't made it to the store so we went to Noodles and Company for dinner. From there we went to the park and then just hung out until it was time to take her home.

-My brother was at my parents house last night so we stopped there. It was late but we had a very overdue birthday present to give him. The kids were having so much fun and behaving so well that I was really enjoying the visit. We ended up staying until almost 9:00. That meant hustling home and to bed since we had to get up early again today for work.

As you can see, I just haven't had much time to do anything lately. I still have unpacked suitcases and laundry to do. We are hoping to attend a birthday party for a little while tonight. After the party, we will have to stop at the grocery store and then head straight home. I am hoping to get at least a couple loads of laundry done and the suitcases put away before bedtime tonight.

I am beginning to think we need another vacation just to catch up from the last vacation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We Are Back!

We are back from vacation. We actually arrived home last night. It has been a whirlwind of activity.

The last week of vacation was absolutely wonderful and very busy. We had a great time visiting with my wonderful relatives in Greeley, Colorado. I always wish I was able to just pack up and move there after a visit. Maybe some day we will. Or maybe it will remain one of those fantasies that just never seems to have the right timing or be the right choice for us.

I hope to post a lot of pictures in the next few days. Today I just don't have the time or energy to find the camera. It's still buried somewhere in our luggage.

I had hoped to get a lot more done today than I did. Jacob had another dermatology appointment this morning. We had to be at the surgery center at 6:30 this morning. That meant that M had to be at daycare at 6:00. About 1 1/2 hours earlier than we have been getting up while travelling! We all made it though and the kids had a fairly good day. Jacob chose a pink airplane as his toy for after the appointment.

I also drove to the building where I will have an interview for an internship next week. I am pretty sure that I will be working there and the interview is mostly a formality. I am looking forward to getting it completed and everything ready for the next semester.

I also have 3 vet appointments (one needs to be rescheduled), another interview and a home visit with our foster home consultant next week. They will all occur on my three days off. Between now and then, I need to finish unpacking the car, unpack the suitcases and do laundry, pick up the house and prepare for the interviews and school. It will be a busy first week back.

I promise more pictures are coming.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Yellowstone

We are enjoying our final evening in the Yellowstone evening. I promise I will post pictures soon.

The trip so far has gone very well. We left Thursday night and drove about five hours. Friday morning we drove about 3 hours and stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. We then drove about 5 hours and saw Mt. Rushmore. We were running a little later than I had hoped so we stopped at Quiznos for a quick dinner. We then drove the rest of the way to the hotel.

On the way to the hotel we saw several antelopes and buffalo. I wasn't sure what the antelope were since I had never seen them before. I knew they didn't look like deer but wasn't sure what else they could be. A quick phone call confirmed what I had guessed that they were very beautiful antelope. The kids and I all really enjoyed seeing the animals.

Saturday we finished driving to Yellowstone. We arrived at the hotel fairly late and just decided to spend time there. After two days in the car, Brooke and Jasmine really needed teenager time away from young children and old ladies (me). The boys and I enjoyed a nice dip in the hotel swimming pool before going to bed.

We spent the past three days hiking and driving around Yellowstone. We saw more buffalo, mule deers, elk and mountain goats. I really enjoyed the boiling mud pools and the geisers. We got some nice pictures.

As you head into the park, there are several signs telling you to stay away from the animals. The park guide states to stay at least 500 feet from all animals except bears and wolves. Then you need to stay 300 yards away. That is great except when the animals won't stay away from you. We had a family, including babies, of buffalo pass right in front of our car. I admit I got a little nervous when the 2000 pound male stopped and looked right at me. He was only inches from my front bumper and no more than 6 feet from me. Of course, I was in the car but that wasn't much comfort when his big horns are aimed right at me and he is looking directly at me. We did get some good pictures of him though.

Tonight we are swimming and then packing for the trip tomorrow. I plan to leave by 7 AM and begin the drive to Colorado. We should reach our hotel in the late afternoon/early evening tomorrow depending on how much we stop and if there are any delays.

Pictures coming soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I love this "stop"!

This picture was taken a rest stop in Wyoming. I loved the way they had a special area set up for pets.

Corn Palace Pictures





Great Shirt!



I loved this shirt. We found it at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It states
I didn't do it.
Nobody saw me do it.
I want to speak to my Gradpa.

This shirt is perfect for a little boy who idolizes his grandpa.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To Do List

School starts in just under 6 weeks. We leave for vacation in 2 days. I was feeling very overwhelmed at the end of last week with everything I had to do. The good news is that I am almost done.

I have finished making all but the last hotel reservation. I am waiting to decide how far we will drive on the way home from Colorado until I see how we are feeling. It is a 14 hour drive so we will be stopping somewhere I just don't know where for sure yet. If we are tired, we will stop in Lincoln, NE. If we are doing well, we may decide to go to Omaha for the night.

I still have several loads of laundry to do. My efforts have been hindered by house breaking accidents, two little boys making baby powder snow shower (or really a blizzard) while I cooked dinner and a few extra changes of clothes after accidents with the hose. That hose really needs to learn how to avoid spraying people.

The house is finally clean thanks to our fabulous house cleaner who came over today. It really needs her talents every week but my budget can barely cover her every two weeks. I love sitting in my clean house after she leaves.

I can't find the air pump for the air mattress so I will be taking a trip to the store tomorrow. Hopefully, I can find a good one that doesn't cost much.

I still need to go to the grocery store after work tomorrow and pack our suitcases. I also need to clean out the van and put our bags and the cooler in it.

I still have a lot to do but am off to a great start. It will get done by the time I go to bed tomorrow. Then we just need to get through the work/school day on Thursday and we can leave! We have a hotel reservation five hours from here for Thursday night so I am hoping to be able to leave home by 4:00 PM.

Vacation here we come!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where did the weekend go?

Wow! I cannot believe it is Sunday evening already. It seems like the past few days have just flown by. I worked all weekend but the evenings have also been packed full of fun. Here are some highlights.

Friday Night: We invited our friend, P, over for dinner. I made hamburger helper and corn for the kids to eat. Jacob and M really enjoyed showing P our new puppy.

After dinner, Jacob wanted to watch his lifebook DVDs from Ethiopia. He has never asked to see them before. I have mentioned them several times but he always states he doesn't want to watch. I strongly believe that Jacob needs to know his story at an age appropriate level but that he should not be forced to hear more than he is ready to hear. For that reason, I was waiting for him to decide he wanted to see his lifebooks.

While Jacob was excited to see pictures of his birth family and their homes, he was even more excited at the part where I came to get him. That is his favorite part of the story. He loves that he is from Ethiopia but he also remembers not having a mom. He tells me often that he never wants to have to find a new mom again. It makes me very sad to think about the things he lost and hear his fears of losing another mom. I am also very happy that God blessed me with him and that we are a family now.

Saturday: My brother, Chuck, celebrated his thirtieth birthday and his recent graduation from law school. I can't even begin to express how proud I am of him. He is a great role model for me and my kids. He also won his first case last week. It was a jury trial and he was the prosecuter. You go Chuck! I was so happy to be able to attend his party Saturday night and celebrate with him and his friends.

Sunday: Today we went to my parents house. They have been on vacation the past few weeks and have been missed. They are a huge part of my support system. While I do have other people I can turn to when I need a break, they are usually the first people I call. It was wonderful to see them again tonight. The boys also really missed them and had fun playing with them outside tonight.

The rest of the week will also be busy as we prepare to go on our first big vacation in two years. Tonight I started working on the huge pile of laundry that must get done before we can leave town. I got a good start on it and should be able to finish in time to pack up the car on Thursday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Running Away Already

M has had a very rough couple of days. Lots of time-outs with very few privileges. The past two nights he has gone to bed early partly for discipline and partly to just give me a little break. Tonight is only going slightly better.

M just finished another time-out a few minutes ago. He walked out into the living room, looked at me and stated, "I'm leaving Mom. I'm leaving." I replied, "good." He began to pick up a blanket and dog crate. I reminded him that those things belonged to me and he can't take them with him. He replied, "Oh" and walked away.

Yes, I will probably have a very similar response when he is actually old enough to run away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Much Better Day

I am very happy to update that after 3 really bad days, things are looking up. They always get better and this time is no different. The problems at work are in the process of being resolved. Wusha is still doing great. The boys are still themselves but somehow it is just easier to deal with them when I am not frustrated with every else in life. Many of the things I was so worried about the past three days have either resolved themselves or will shortly.

And for my misbehaving toddler boys, I think an early bedtime is in order. After all, how many time-outs can they have in one day? Oh, and no puppy time. If you can't listen and be calm with the puppy, you can't play with the puppy. End of story.

Stressful Week

This week has been a long week of stress (and I'm only half through!) I am hoping that I am able to resolve some of the problems quickly.

It began on Sunday when I was told by a supervisor that I cannot use sick leave to care for my children. He stated that as a law enforcement officer, I should have other people care for my children and take them to the doctor. What!?!?! I am still trying to get this one resolved but hope to have it resolved soon. After all, my children will always come first before any job.

I also realized late last week that I misunderstood how the county was changing our paydates. I thought that I would still be paid the same amount just at a different time. I was wrong. One week that I worked this month will be paid when I quit or retire. So hypothetically in 23 years! That along with a paycut due to the economy and I am out about $1100! I'm still not sure how I'm going to overcome that. I'll figure it out though. I always do.

Lastly I received some frustrating news about M. Nothing major or that will risk his placement. Just not what I was hoping to hear. It will work out though. I definitelly want the social workers and attorneys to do everything they have to so that the judge and jury will make the right decisions (if it comes to that).

The boys seem to be picking up on my stress and on the cool and wet weather (where did summer go?) They have been fighting, having trouble listening or cooperating and making some major messes. On Sunday, Jacob and M got ahold of some baby powder the sitter left out. Almost a whole bottle was thrown around the room before I realized what was happening. M also pulled his door off the hinge while slamming the door. Thankfully the door isn't damaged so I am hoping to find someone to help me put the hinge back on soon.

The only positive this week seems to be the dogs. Sierra has settled down and has accepted the new puppy very well. She gets jealous from time to time but mostly is just watching over the puppy. Wusha is still having accidents but is doing well considering she is only 8 weeks old and has only been here for a few days.

Things will get better and easier. I know that. I just am struggling this week. So bear with my self-pity post. It is just where I am at today. After all, parenting isn't all roses and being a single parent can be pretty scary some days.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wusha Update

Wusha is doing great. He is 8 weeks old and progressing on housebreaking. He hasn't had any accidents when I have been home although he did have a few while the babysitter was here. I'm just happy we haven't had any major problems in that area. I will take a few accidents. After all, he is still learning.

Wusha loves Jacob. He allows him to carry him in baskets and the shopping cart. It just amazes me. When I make Jacob leave him alone, Wusha just follows him everywhere. He is definitelly bonding.

Wusha is already coming when called and recognizes his name. Some of it may be that he is so young and still a little scared. I am still impressed though. I have hope he may be trainable yet.

He has a healthy appetite. Well, he did. He hasn't been too hungry tonight. The boys wouldn't let him sleep except while they missed so he is EXHAUSTED. He also didn't sleep well last night. I am sure he will be interested in food again tomorrow after he sleeps. If not, I'll call the vet. We already have an appointment scheduled but maybe we can get in sooner.

Wusha hasn't destroyed anything yet and has been easily redirected to chew toys as opposed to other things.

Sierra, our other dog, has taken over the mother role. She keeps an eye on Wusha making sure he isn't getting into trouble or doing anything he shouldn't. She also checks on him when he cris.

I haven't heard Wusha bark. He definitelly knows how to cry. I am sure there is a bark in there somewhere. I just haven't heard it yet. Maybe when he feels more secure.

For those of you totally bored by my dog report, bear with me. This is our area of excitement. The past few days have been very stressful for me and the dog is one of my bright spots. Otherwise, I am just trying to stay focused and ignore those people who want to see me fail.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Introducing Our New Friend

Our 8 week old Brittany/King Charles Spaniel mix.



Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Happy birthday to a great man. Nelson Mandela is turning 91 years old today and still fighting to make his country and the world a better place. He is truly a hero that I admire. He is also the person on the top of my list that I would love to meet. In the midst or recent news coming out of Philadelphia, it is nice to be reminded that people are still fighting for justice and equality throughout the world. So today, I say a prayer of thanks for President Mandela and the wonderful work being done by brave heroes throughout the world.

No Excuse!

There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. None. As a member of law enforcement, this makes me even angrier. Although I do sometimes see this behavior here, it isn't this blatant and definitelly not on a public website. Disciplinary hearings and diversity training seem to be needed desperately. We have made so much progress but obviously have a ways to go. I know our sheriff would not put up with this kind of behavior. Especially making posts while on his time. I hop e that the people of Philadelphia stand up and make sure that all officers and people are treated with respect. I guess I can cross Philedalphia off my list of places to visit in the near future. I won't give any of my tourism dollars to a government that allows this kind of abuse to take place.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/07/17/police.racism.lawsuit/index.html

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Here is a review of the last three days. The entire three day weekend was so wonderful I had a very difficult time going to work today. The whole day I just wanted to go home and see the boys.

Tuesday:

9:00 AM Visited with my foster home consultant. Nothing super exciting or unexpected. She occassionally stops by. She is in charge of my licensing and just making sure things are overall going well. They are so it was just a routine visit. I actually look forward to her visits. We were able to sit outside and talk while the boys rode bikes in the driveway.

10:45 AM: Left for Chicago. We wanted to see a rescue center personally and see how well cared for the dogs appeared. It was a smaller building than I anticipated but the animals were all well cared for and appeared happy. We were able to say high to a very young puppy leaving with it's new family.

1:45 PM: Put our new friend on hold. He wasn't at the shelter but will be this weekend. (Note to my extended family. I left a note about it. I know you won't agree but we can talk about it later.) The boys are super excited and counting down the days. We did see his picture. He is a little ball of fur. I will post pictures when we get him home.

5:00 PM: Returned home. Started the grill and waited for our friend Heather.

6:00 PM: Ate dinner with Heather and then went for a walk. It was a wonderful evening. We stopped at a pet store a few blocks away and got some supplies. Thankfully, I already have pretty much everything I need.

Wednesday:

9:00 AM: Called the vet and made an appointment for our new friend for next week.

10:00 AM: Finished cleaning out the dog and cat toys. Removed all children's toys from the living room. Did some laundry and got Jacob's swimming and nap stuff ready for school today.

4:00 PM: Picked the kids up from school. Prepared dinner for Diane.

6:00 PM: Went to the neighborhood park with Diane. It was a good time and the kids behaved well.

Thursday:

6:15 AM: Jacob has a really bad cold and I actually thought he might have to stay home today. He doesn't have a fever and is active though so I sent him and M to daycare. I waited nervously for a phone call but it never came. The teachers reported he was coughing and congested but never developed a fever. He seems like his normal self just congested. Poor kid. Summer colds are not fun.

6:40 AM: Arrive at work and realize Jacob's swimming and nap supplies are still sitting next to my lunch in the car. Ughh! I also realized there was nothing I could do about it. I began brainstorming for things we could do about it.

7:30 AM: Called daycare. The director agreed Jacob could swim in his shorts from his extra clothes supply. She also stated he could borrow nap supplies from the school. I was so relieved he wouldn't have to miss swimming. My parents are out of town so I didn't have anyone to run a swimsuit over for me.

8:45 AM: Called the vet. Found out how old our new friend has to be for his first rabies shot. (Note to my parents: please don't freak out). Also got the cost estimate for neutering and how old he has to be first. The good news is that it is cheaper for smaller animals. The bad news is that is still costs money.

1:30 PM: Found a babysitter for the weekend. It's a long story but I suddenly realized on Monday that I don't have a sitter for the weekend. I called everyone I could think of and was beginning to think I wouldn't find anyone. I ended up with two people that could do it. That was a huge relief. I also had a nice conversation with a teenage babysitter's mom. It was nice to see a parent not afraid to call and ask questions. The babysitter will be coming to meet our friend with us.

3:30 PM: Picked the boys up from daycare. Put Jacob's swimming and nap things away. He can use the nap things tomorrow and the swimming stuff next week. I probably won't have to wash his sheet and blanket this week since he will only use them for one day.

4:30 PM: Made dinner. For the first time in 3 days I didn't fire up the grill. It was missed.

We are spending the rest of the evening relaxing and doing laundry. After such a fun few days off work, it is hard to go back. Unless I suddenly win the lottery (which I don't play), I will have to continue to work. Maybe I can just marry a rich husband....