Monday, June 18, 2018

HVAC

Reggie has complained a lot this winter about his room being too hot.  It is very stuffy and the heat blows so hard up there, even though we have shut the registers, which I know is bad for the furnace, but we didn't really have a choice.  Our room is freezing in the winter and hot in the summer, along with the piano room, so I decided to have a few HVAC people over to determine the best fix.  We were considering mini split heat pumps because mom and dad have had good luck, but they also make a large heat pump that can replace a furnace.  So, we got ideas all over the place and prices ranging from $13,000-$28,000.  The heat pump option was really pricey, so we crossed it off the list.  It almost seemed more confusing by the end of it, but Miller's made the most sense.  Our vents were in the wrong place and too small in our room, so they thought it made sense to reduct the downstairs.  This was turning out to be a HUGE project because our furnace was over 25 years old and our air conditioner was not far behind, so we basically had to replace the entire system.  And then, they found asbestos!  Most of the places were not willing to remove it, but Miller's said it was a small enough area that they could do it, so that right there saved us at least $2,000.  They had a crew at our house for an entire week and because they were working in the crawl space, there was dust everywhere.  Thankfully, it was a mild week because we were without heat or air, so we were just a little chilly in the mornings.  We also decided to upgrade the furnace and AC unit to be eligible for the California rebate and we passed the testing, so we'll receive $3,000 back.  It was still a huge chunk of cash, but the house is now 2 zone, so we can turn on the upstairs by itself or just the downstairs and as a bonus, we got smart thermostats, so we can control it from our phones!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Work/life balance

Well, unfortunately, the pendulum has swung in the wrong direction again.  Ryan's job has been very busy....he has had some turnover and hired someone new and has traveled about 50% of the time since March.  We've had some serious conversations about this and I think he gets it, but hasn't been able to get it under control.  It's great that he has built this new data center focus for his company, but it owns him right now.  I'm not saying his job isn't good in some ways as it can be flexible and he does a great job of providing for us, but there comes a point where he is giving too much to his company and we are there.  Hopefully, he can hire someone to do the job he is doing and relieve some of the load, but mostly the problem is his personality where he can't let go of stuff and he is driven by multi-million dollar deals...it his addiction, as he put it.  He has no time for himself and isn't taking very good care of himself and that will catch up to him eventually (it already has as he is gimping around because he won't take the time to go to the doctor to find out what is wrong with his hips and back).
Enough of that....the nice thing about his travels is that he has been flying my mom here to help out!  We had a lot of fun the last time she was here at the end of May and it was a busy week, filled with a school meeting, the foster support group meeting, swimming at the gym (she forgot her suit, so squeezed into mine!), brunch with friends to make promotion lei's, visiting the wine festival and going to the movies, attending open house to see all the kids work this year, doing foster respite, stopping by the farmer's market and doing Meals on Wheels.  As well as the usual sport activities.  I couldn't have done everything without her and what I could have done would have been exhausting, so thank you mom!!!




Wednesday, June 13, 2018

8th grade in the books....

We officially have a high schooler!  Moving on from middle school is a much bigger deal these days (or maybe it is a California thing).  Reggie had a special breakfast on the last day of school and that night a promotion ceremony with robes and the whole bit.  I'm so glad we go to a smaller school!  The ceremony felt small town and it was entertaining to say the least (the choir sang The Wind Beneath My Wings, by Bette Midler!).
 A bit of a pizza fiasco on the last day.  They offered it for $5, but a bunch of the boys thought that was silly to pay that much for one slice, so they decided to order pizza from Domino's and get an entire half a pizza for $5.  Somehow we got sucked into in and their poor planning made for a little stress.  Ryan called to order the pizza when he got the list from Reggie and they said no dice...too busy, so Reggie suggested Costco,,,same answer.  Good old Little Ceasars was able to accommodate, so the boys didn't go hungry!  I guess that was against the rules because one of Reggie's friends saw me and told me he asked if he could get his own pizza and they told him no.  I guess he learned his lesson that sometimes its better not to ask!  And Reggie learned a lesson that you must collect pizza money from your friends, otherwise you pay the balance.  Luckily, most of them paid.

Reggie had his best trimester yet, holding steady with 6 A's and 1 B, but as we have learned that can change quickly and the last 2 weeks of school two of the A's fell to B's.   But, I saw his effort and his desire to get good grades, so its all good.  The best part about the trimester was that he didn't get a single zero and took more initiative do some extra credit and bring his grades up.  A bit of a relief since next year the grades count.
I guess leis are the thing and thankfully, my friend Krissy clued me in and we had a little party at her house to make them.  It is quite involved and thankfully mom was in town to help me.  It went much quicker with extra hands and it took Reggie and Khalif 43 minutes to get all the money off the lei which was $40.
 I'm guessing Reggie is approaching 5' 10" and we just went through his dresser and he has only 4 pants that are long enough.  I'm going to have to start buying tall length!
He has an awesome group of friends!  I'm so glad one of the moms took some pictures because he couldn't get the robe off fast enough...we didn't even get a family picture πŸ‘Ž.
The other 2 on the last day of school:
 They had field day, but Khalif decided to watch Chicken Little with his new best friend, Miles.
 Ainsley and Ginger enjoyed face painting

Phone fiasco

I have been irritated with Apple for quite some time and the thought of being out from under that empire was becoming more and more appealing.  It all started when I tried to update the blog a few months ago and I couldn't transfer my pictures from my phone to my computer because they weren't there...I could see them, but they weren't really on my phone.  After spending much time with Apple, I was told the phone decides where the pictures go, either straight to the cloud or hard saved on your phone.  I told him that was ridiculous and there should be some sort of setting and he agreed.  So, the problem was, how do I easily transfer them from the cloud to my phone and there was no easy answer.  One by one is what he told me and he could tell I was very unhappy with this solution. 
Then Ryan blew out a candle and the wax landed right on my phone speaker, so I couldn't take calls and hear anything when it was up to my ear.  I scraped it out a few times, but no luck.  Now, in the meantime, Ryan dropped his work phone and shattered the screen.  They sent him a new one and he thought it would be nice to get the screen fixed and give it to me since he had a 7 and I still had a 6. The lady at Verizon was hopeful that the 7 would fix my picture problem because the 6 was so bad that there is a lawsuit (which I asked how you become part of!). So, the day came to transfer everything and after a few hours my new phone said out of storage.  OMG Ryan didn't check the capacity of the phone and it was 32GB and mine was 64GB.  I deleted a lot of stuff off my phone, but that wasn't going to work, so I transferred everything back and decided to fix the speaker problem by melting the wax out.  It worked perfectly and I could hear crystal clear, but Siri started to act up later that day and died shortly after because she lives in the speaker by your ear.  Of course, that makes sense...all this time I talk to her from the bottom of my phone and she never lived there.  Unfortunately, I fried her and since I dictate 90% of the time, my phone was now useless to me.  Good thing it was time for an upgrade anyway.
Now, we had just added Reggie's phone to the insurance plan to fix the many problems with his 6 (come to find out later that his claim would likely have been denied), so he was eyeing the 7.  We agreed that if he paid for the screen repair, he could have it.  We have had many issues with my phone and his phone being connected, especially when setting up a new phone, so I found a place in settings where I could delete the 7 from my account and that seemed like the easiest way to insure we wouldn't have issues again.  This locked the phone...there was no message that said this was going to happen!  It took hours and research to finally unlock it and the boys were not so happy with me.  This was a very frustrating weekend and the next day we had a pool party for Ainsley's trampoline and it happened to be right by the Verizon store.  I had a Pina Colada and Ryan said we should leave Ainsley and go get a phone.  So, I was a little altered when I decided to ditch apple and go with the Google Pixel.  The salesperson had both phones and was steering me a little in that direction because she loves Android.  Well, long story short, the phone was great in many ways but there were a lot of little nuances that I had to work around and I found it very annoying.  I took it in to Verizon after about 5 days and had all my questions and the guy helping me was navigating much like me and I asked him what phone he had and he had an Iphone 10.  So, we both scratched our heads why certain things worked that way, but he was able to find a way to make everything work.  There's always a fix if you download an App!  And, it glitched every now and then as well.  Everyone else in the family has Apple and I wouldn't be able to find their phones, do Facetime or share their plugs.  Anyway, I had a bad day with the phone and it went back.  I got the 8 and honestly was annoyed going back to the old way of doing things.  I probably would have been just fine keeping it, but I was done.  I uploaded some new Apps on my Apple based on my great experiences with Google.  Now, my pictures are backed up by them and there's no fee and I can mass download to my computer.  And, guess what????  My missing pictures showed up, so now I can update the blog from Christmas through March (not really looking forward to that, but so excited to have my pictures back!!!).  Reggie also found the setting on the phone that allows you to choose where the pictures live, so the Apple guy was wrong unless the recent update fixed that problem! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Toddlers

Word is out and we have been doing long-term respite, mainly when foster parents go on vacation.  Since April, we've had 3 and its been a lot of work, but very fun!  We had our first girl, little L was 15 months old and she was so amazing....smart, a good sleeper and eater and overall she was so easy and made us laugh a lot.  She was a dancer and if she had a beat, she was moving (even while eating!).
We've had little M two times now and he is 14 months.  Also, easy peasy and so chill, but he is way behind on walking/talking, but he has been in foster care for almost 3 months and has come along way in a very short time.  We almost got him to say ball!
None of these pictures or videos are great due to privacy, but you can get a little flavor of our fun:
Even the cat liked her!




And, we've had baby C (hopefully, soon to be baby T when he is adopted!) several times since we first got him in December.  His foster mom is a single mom, so I asked her to please let us help when we can.  He was supposed to go to family this month, but that didn't work out and it looks like she is going to adopt him and we are all very excited about that :).  This last weekend was really crazy, we had baby T and little M all day Saturday.  Thankfully, we didn't have much going on and it was a lot more manageable than I thought.  We often sit around and just hang with all the kids (and laugh a lot) and for me it was more restful than our normal crazy weekends.  It is really fun to see our kids and their interest.  We got a call today for a 9 month old and Reggie said we should go get him, but I reminded him we are leaving next week, so that's a no go.  We have to make sure we have balance and rest, as Ryan has had a little bit of a hard time with the life interruption and lack of freedom.
I've started to realize that this path we're on might be more about others, than ourselves.  We don't plan to adopt again and I've asked myself what is the point of what we're doing, but I have been reminded that there's lots of purpose.  The foster parents are so appreciative that they can have a nice vacation without worrying about their little ones and I can't tell you how many conversations we have had with people about fostering, maybe planting a seed or just opening their eyes about the foster system.  We went to a birthday party when we had baby T and the host really didn't know that we fostered and she opened up about their failed adoption recently and how she needed this to give her direction!  God is amazing!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Give and you shall receive!

We try to be generous with what God has blessed us with and last year we bought a well through Samaritan's Purse and never expected so much to come out of it.  They have been so amazing about keeping us informed and updating us on what is going on in certain parts of the world without asking for more money.  We even had a visit at our house from one of their employees who gave us all kinds of info and tailored it to the kids.  We were invited to a reception for the Franklin Graham California tour and I thought, why not?  So, last night we drove to Berkeley and what a blessing!  We got to hear stories from Franklin Graham about his 2 organizations that are changing the world.  He had a couple of shoe box stories that were amazing!  And to hear what they do medically during disasters was really eye opening.  I think we were all filled up just from that, but that wasn't even the event.  There was a large, free event with Jeremy Camp.  We weren't quite prepared as we saw people packing in their camp chairs and that didn't even occur to me, so we had to sit in the grass.  There were a bunch of people already camped out but we managed to find a place where there were others who didn't have chairs (they blocked the view).  There was still plenty of time before the event, so Ainsley and I walked around to see if we could find anyone we knew and we ended up at the very front and there was plenty of room for us to sit, so why not???  The boys didn't want to move...their loss (they did end up joining us at the end)!  Jeremy Camp came out not long after and sang my favorite song, Word of Life.  There was so much energy and the words he spoke were powerful.  After a couple songs, he looked over in our direction and said, "What's your name."  We didn't know who he was talking to because there were a lot of people, but he then said, "You, young girl."  And Ainsley was the only kid in the area, so she told him her name and he repeated it and asked how old she was and then gave her a message.  I wasn't quite quick enough with the phone (would have missed the whole message if I still had my Iphone), but I got most of it...a message for all of us:

As if the night wasn't good enough, that was amazing!  I guess the boys were freaking out in the back because he was talking to us :).  Then, Franklin Graham spoke again and called people to stand if they wanted to accept Christ and there were so many people who did!  So moving and unforgettable.  When we were going back to the car, I said how that made me just want to go and share Christ with everyone and the kids agreed.  It was such a powerful reminder of our purpose here on earth, our one and only purpose, share the good news and love of God!
It also reminded me that we have to put ourselves out there in order to do this.  It might be uncomfortable and take us places we never thought we would go or do things we never thought we would do, but just maybe we will see God at work and have just one or two stories like Franklin Graham.  I think a lot of times we don't see the fruits of our labor, but to be obedient when God calls is all we need to do.  If we're lucky, years later we'll understand why certain things happened or why we were on the path we were on.  Maybe that won't happen until eternity, but God gives us what we need and I was reminded of that when I read my Mother's Day card from Khalif.  Definitely, the most challenging thing I've ever done in so many ways but to know that Khalif gets it, makes it worth it!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ainsley's first dance

Since there's no more gymnastics on Friday nights, Ainsley was able to attend the last dance of the year!  It was an 80's theme, but she didn't want to dress 80's, so there you go.  She had a pizza party with friends before and they did hair and make-up (never occurred to me that make up was a possibility).  There's one girl in the group who hangs with high schoolers a lot so she acts a lot older than she is.  After the dance and I reminded her that she doesn't need make-up, nor do any of the other girls!  She was also concerned that a boy was going to ask her to dance and she told me she wasn't comfortable with that but ended up getting a lot of pressure from this boys 8th grade sister, so she danced with a Riley (who we hear about a lot-definitely a crush).  She said it wasn't as bad as she thought it was going to be, but we had lots of discussion about staying true to who she is and not worrying so much about hurting other people's feelings.  If they are truly a friend, they will respect her decisions.  I'm glad she talks to me and the consequences of choices at this age are minimal, but great opportunities to learn.  I hope she keeps talking to me!  She didn't want to tell Ryan that she danced with a boy, but he asked her outright and she told the truth and he flipped out a bit.  As parents, we are entering a place we don't want to go....she is growing up and that's a little scary!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ups and downs

Khalif had an amazing month last month at school.  He got his first IB trait, thinker and followed it up the next month with another one!  He has yet to get one and got 2 in the span of 2 months!  His teacher told me that she has seen a new level of maturity from him as he is trying to make better decisions about his friends and who he hangs out with.  I was very proud of him because a new student started and he befriended him right away, making him feel comfortable.  I was volunteering on the new students 2nd day and asked him how it was going and if he had made any friends and he said yes and he was trying to get Khalif's name out and I helped him (it is an unusual name) and he said yes, that's him!  He can be so sweet :).
The boys also had a couple of swim meets and Khalif has done amazing!  Got 1st place in a couple events and he was so excited and proud of himself.
And then, things can turn so quickly.  He started working on his most traumatic memory a few weeks ago, being taken from his mom at 20 months and put in the police car that took him to social services.  Wow, did things shift!  He wet the bed every night for a week and his challenging behaviors came flooding back.  Even though it is hard, I know it is for good.  If talking about it has that much of an impact on him, then it is clear that he needs to work through it.  I'm thinking he'll be on this memory for quite awhile and in the meantime he is going to have to figure out how to manage himself.  I got an e-mail from the teacher this week that he has been having issues with controlling his impulses in class, so we've talked strategy and hopefully, it will help.  Please pray that God will heal him!

Volleyball and Trampoline

Ainsley has found 2 new sports that she loves!  She tried out for the school volleyball team and we figured she would be on the 6th grade team, but they moved her to the B team (Three 6th graders made the squad so it was a big deal!).  The coach told her that she loves watching her play because she learns so quickly and has improved so much in such a short time.  She is the setter and I guess that is a difficult position, so it has been a lot of learning for her.  We've had volleyball 4 days a week, 2 practices and 2 games for the last month and she still wants to play at home after school and on the weekends.  I arranged a mom/daughter volleyball playdate at the sand courts and we all had a blast.  The beauty about sand is that it doesn't hurt when you fall, although it is very hard to move quickly.  She wants to do club volleyball when the season is over, but I think we'll try something else for a bit and then go back in August when we return from our summer travels.
She's got a pretty good serve!
The other sport she is loving is Trampoline!  It is a fairly easy transition given her background and she is learning new things every day.  She is moving up to a new group next week and is kinda bummed about not being in her group anymore (she's only been there for 3 weeks, REALLY!).  The groups are co-ed, so she enjoys that very much.  I just found a family to carpool with which will help with the late night pick-ups!!! 
This sport has 3 events, tumbling, double mini and trampoline.  It is different than gymnastics because you can be different levels on different events.  Unfortunately, her wrists were giving her trouble when she was tumbling so we got her some tiger paw braces and she has been loving them!  No pain at all, but makes her disappointed that they were not allowed at her gym because I think she thinks she would have been able to continue and maybe she would have.  But, in the long run, I think this has been a really good change for her.  She has been hanging out with more school friends and has a new little family at trampoline and they all seem like such nice kids!  Even having 2 activities in place of gymnastics, she still has a lot more time on her hands.  She and Khalif have been playing a lot of basketball and trampoline, and even Reggie has joined in playing volleyball and nerf guns, so that has been great to see too.  And she has time to hang out with our foster babies!!! 
Video of her on the double mini:

DC and New York

Reggie was invited to go on the 8th grade Washington DC trip and Ryan remembers that trip more than anything from when he was a kid, so we signed him up and since I've never been, I went too!  We packed a whole lot into 5 nights and 4 days.  The first night was spent on the plane and we had a layover in Arizona, so the flight was only 4 1/2 hours.  You can't travel without problems and the first was taking off from Arizona...the plane was in full throttle getting ready to take off and then we slowed and stopped.  A warning light came on, so we got a new plane and were off 2 hours later at 1:30 in the morningπŸ˜†.  I brought melatonin and Reggie was out for about 4 hours.  The tour company had to rearrange our day because of the delay and when we landed, we got on the bus and immediately started the tour!  First stop was Ford theater and although it was interesting, the "show" was dark and the seats were comfortable and I was head bobbing in no time.  From there, we went to the Holocaust museum and then to the memorials.   It was starting to get dark and it was freezing and windy, so we were all happy to get back on the bus and head to the hotel.  We arrived at 9:30 and I think everyone was wiped out!



We got to the hotel and I heard the boys talking in the next room and as I listened closer, it was Reggie's voice, so although us parents were not chaperones, we were there and able to help the kids stay on task.  I had several kids that I was the go to for since their parents couldn't go, but all of those kids did really great (except one had some motion sickness on the airplane).
My roommate was awesome, maybe a little too much because we stayed up late chatting it up every night and basically were working on 6 hours of sleep each night.  I hope the boys got more....we didn't hear them, but playing video games can also be very quiet.
We were up bright and early the next day and headed to Arlington national cemetery, the Bible Museum and George Washington's house in Mt. Vernon.  Later that night we went to Virginia and did a "ghost" tour which I could have done without, but at least there was a little bit of history.
Notice how this guy walks...his head stays completely level.  They have hour shifts and it is quite an honor to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Bible Museum had artifacts that were very, very old!  We chose to detour from the group....they went to the Smithsonian museums, but this had just as much history and meant a lot more to us!  Reggie said this was his favorite thing in DC.
 Amazingly old bible!  They had a few pieces of the dead sea scrolls on display, but they were not in very good shape.  We learned that the bible still needs to be translated to several hundred more languages, but they are making progress.  It was really cool to see some beautiful, old bibles from all over the world.  We only had an hour to explore, so unfortunately, we couldn't do the audio tour with over 15 hours of information!
 I thought this was  a clever way that they read scrolls.
George's teeth were not made of wood!
The next day we went to the White House and capital.  Then we got on the bus and headed to New York.  We made it just in time for our appointment at the Empire State Building.
Reggie spent much time on his device 😠😠😠😠.  I hope he absorbed some of the history.
 75 of us went on the trip!  That's a lot when the entire 8th grade only has 84 students (but there were quite a few parents).  I had a lot of fun getting to know many of them :).
 The next day we did the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park, rode the subway to Times Square and went to the Broadway show, Wicked!
It was soooo cold!
Video of Times Square...it was insanely busy-I think more than Tokyo!
 Wicked was amazing!  I'm not into the theater or musicals and after the first 5 minutes I was really worried, but about 15 minutes in, the story took over and it was great.
The theater had the Dyson tap and I may have been the only person who knew what it was or how to use it!
We got back very late that night, so we got to sleep in the next day until 7!  We went to Chelsea Market and I was super excited because we hardly had time to pee, let alone shop for souvenirs.  To my disappointment, it was kind of like pike place market but a whole lot bigger, no souvenirs :(.  Reggie had been asking the entire trip to go to the Nintendo store and we had been just a mile away the day before, but couldn't go.  There was a group of boys and moms and we decided to ditch the market and hire the bus driver to take us there!  The boys were over the moon excited, but it was Sunday and we didn't realize it didn't open until 11.  We had a few extra minutes and there was a big area with flags that looked really cool, so we walked over to kill time and it was Rockefeller Center!!!  What a bonus...people were ice skating and everything!  It was only about 2 miles away from where we were but it took about 1/2 hour to get there and we barely made it back, but I'm pretty sure that was the highlight of the boys' trip!

After that, we went to wall street, the twin towers memorial and Brooklyn bridge.
The twin towers was quite a sight to see.  Reliving what happened was so sad.
We were all toast about the middle of the day.  I stopped taking pictures and just wanted to sit down.  We were happy to get on the bus and head to the airport!  After about an hour we got to the Newark airport and someone read the sign out loud and the teacher perked up...Newark?  She asked if that was a joke because we were supposed to be at JFK!!!  It happened to her last year and the kids missed there flight and got routed all over the US, so she was freaking out.  What are the odds it would happen again? Thankfully, we had a very aggressive bus driver, but it was stressful and rushed and we didn't really get much dinner except what we could find at a snack shack at the airport.  The other bus went to the right airport, so they had been there for a good while (they got the shaft the entire trip because we made it to every stop almost 1/2 hour before them, so this was redemption!).  The plane was a lot quieter on the way home.  Reggie, along with most of his classmates, slept close to the entire flight and we arrived in Oakland at 12:30 am and were in bed around 1:30!  It was fast, furious and exhausting, but tons of fun and a great learning experience!
The next day a one year old foster baby arrived at our house, so there was no rest for the weary!  He was with us for 9 days while his foster family was on vacation and there were lots of laughs in our home.  Ainsley was such a great help...I couldn't have done it without her.  It wasn't the best timing, but I'm thankful that he was such a happy, easy going little guy.  I am glad to finally rest and get back to normal, well, for a couple weeks anyway, until we do another vacation respite for a 15 month old little girl.  Our first girl....should be lots of fun!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Windsor/Safari West

I set up a little trip for Ryan and the kids while Reggie and I went to DC for spring break, but we left much later than expected so we all packed up and went!  Reggie and I had 2 suitcases because we had to be at the airport the day we returned. 
It is a pain checking into the Worldmark there because they don't let you go without getting the spiel, but other than that, it might be one of our favorite properties.  They have a volleyball net in the grassy area (which was a huge bonus this year), basketball courts, ping pong and all the usual other stuff.  Plus, the small town of Windsor is really cute, although we didn't really have time to explore it (I did with a girls trip a couple years earlier).
The kids always love staying somewhere new.  It does have challenges for us when Khalif gets excited or anxious, we get some ADD type behaviors and it is frustrating, but can also be very scary.  This trip, he disappeared from the pool area which isn't exactly the place you want to go missing.  I wasn't too concerned because he is a great swimmer, but where was he?  Just as I was starting to get a little worried, I saw him running from the parking lot, way on the other side of the resort.  He decided he was going to get our ball out of the locked car and didn't think it was necessary to tell us....hmmm.  Not sure how to improve this as it is a constant struggle when we travel, maybe it will improve with age?  I'm just not sure it is within his ability to control it.  Anyway, the good news is he's always survived our trips and he has a ton of fun.  Reggie, on the other hand, is starting to get bored and not want to swim, but he did enjoy volleyball and basketball (we taught the kids how to play bump) and the work-out room....maybe he didn't enjoy this as much, but he's not going to sit on his phone!
 I think her days of doing this are numbered!  She's a big too big, but they had lots of laughs trying
The next day we went to Safari West.  Khalif and Ainsley sat up top in the Jeep and a giraffe was staring them in the face....I think they probably could have touched it!  I couldn't get Reggie to go up, but we enjoyed the view from the back of the Jeep.  It was nothing like our safari in Kenya, but I enjoyed the educational piece and learning about the wild fires.  The kids thought it was o.k....its such a bummer when you spend a lot of money and think the kids are going to be amazed and they would rather have stayed at the condo πŸ‘Ž.  I am glad we did not stay there because we talked to a couple people in our group and they said they hardly slept at all because the animals were so loud!  It is REALLY pricey to stay, so that would have been a royal bummer.
We learned about how giraffe's eat and if you watch its neck, you can see the food going down and then back up



We could see charred areas all around us and the devastation from the fires on the drive was amazing.  Random fireplaces and pools where houses used to be.  The vegetation had grown back so it was even more strange.  They think Safari West survived because all the vegetation was eaten by the animals, so the fire had nothing to ignite.  It got very close on one side, but thankfully all the animals were fine.  We also drove through the main neighborhood that was destroyed and there was a bit of rebuilding going on, but not too much.  It was the strangest thing to see....the fire came out of nowhere and so many neighboring houses were just fine.  Usually, you can see the path of the fire, but I think because it was so windy, it just jumped all over the place.  Thankful to have our home for sure!!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fun for all in March

Life was a little treacherous for mom and dad in February.  Dad was in the hospital with intestinal bleeding (from low blood pressure that he caused by taking an extra pill) and it took them a bit to figure out what was going on.  Thankfully, that doesn't usually happen to people a 2nd time, but it was a bit scary for all.  Then a couple weeks later, mom was tracking a deer in the snow and slipped on a tarp and broke her rib.  I was a little concerned that they weren't going to make it to our house yet again, but they rallied (I sent my mom the Great Mender chinese supplement and she was better in less than 2 weeks!).  They had lots of plans here while Ryan and I went to Maui, so it is a good thing it all worked out.  Aunt Sue and Uncle Rich flew down to stay with them for a week and they had a lot of fun and found a new hobby!  Unfortunately, they weren't playing by the rules, but got a little lesson when we got back from Maui.  Then Patricia and John stayed for a couple of nights on their way to Arizona and it sounded like they all had a wonderful time.  I'm glad the kids are older and can take care of themselves!!!  I'm not so sure about these crazy cats!

We enjoyed Maui as usual.  The weather was perfect and there were lots of whales and turtles and for the first time I saw a dolphin!!!  We relaxed and rested and read on the beach.  We were spoiled to have gone twice in one year (although it was a little different with the kiddos).
My favorite view
 We were finally in the right place at the right time to see a sunset

Mom and dad came a few days before we left for Maui to go to a women's church event.  It was really great, although I can't remember much about it now!  Anyway, we didn't have a whole lot of time to do much, but we did volunteer at our church packing bags for the homeless. 


Monday, March 5, 2018

February-Casita visitor and spring cleaning

It has come up in a few conversations with our outreach person at our church that we have a studio that we are willing to house those in need for short periods of time.  We got a note in January about an intern who really needed housing which sounded like a great fit.  She had a super personality and was very into missions and after talking with her, I decided to move forward.  She stayed there for the month of February and it was a learning experience for us.  We realized that we use that space a lot, Ryan for work and the boys for play and Ainsley's church group meets in there.  Every Wednesday we got to see what was happening in there because she had her high school group somewhere else and Ainlsey had her group meeting in there and I have to say the millennial generation is an interesting one.  My biggest concern was that we couldn't get the funky smell out after she left and thankfully, I don't smell it anymore.  It was eye opening to see the lack of cleanliness and awareness of basic principles (like emptying the Dyson and how to do laundry) and how to show appreciation when you are a guest somewhere.  It was a great time to educate our children on what not to do and I'm not sure we'll be doing that again any time soon, which is unfortunate since it is empty so much. 
We had a bit more time in February since gymnastics was 1/2 time and then ended completely, so we did some spring cleaning!  The amount of clothes, toys and stuff filled Ryan's car, but it felt so good to purge.  Ainsley really notices when things are organized and has commented many times that she feels much better when things are in their place.  We don't require the kids to make their beds, but most of the time, she will!  We rearranged her room and Reggie's room to function a little better and although Reggie's room was a little more challenging and we had to move things around more than once, it is so much better! 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fostering

To be done or not to be done???  We have been trying to sort this out.  I would love to help in some capacity, but the county hasn't gotten their plan together.  About a year and a half ago, they asked for temporary foster parents to be there on a short term basis while they figured out where best to place them.  We said, "YES!" and then nothing happened.  We kept checking in but the county had to put resources in another area and this went to the backburner.  Then, in September, they announced that if you didn't take a placement by the end of the year, your license would expire.  Life was busy, we had travels planned and they kept calling for newborns and sibling sets, which were not appealing.  There were a couple that I called back for and said we would take, but it was only temporary due to our travels and they decided to place somewhere else.  I do get that they don't want to move children all over the place, but it was getting down to the wire for us.  There were several other families in Livermore in the same boat and they didn't take placements for very good reasons, so it was frustrating to all of us.  Well, all the calls had stopped for a couple of weeks, so we left it in God's hands.  I put in a prayer request to my bible study and that afternoon, I got a call for a newborn.  I knew we had to jump or be done, so we went for it, knowing we were heading to Washington in a couple weeks and this would be short-term.  One of the families here had been stockpiling stuff for a few months with plans to take a newborn, but she ended up with a 2 year old, so she gave me everything, bottles, formula, diapers!  Another woman who fosters babies had two of a lot of stuff, so she also hooked us up with the car seat/stroller, clothes and a moving bassinet.  The next day, I made the trek to Highland Hospital in Oakland to pick up a 3 day old baby!  I  had to go through the ER to get to the nursery and that was quite an experience....kind of like a scene from a t.v. show. 
The nights were long and he was pretty fussy, but he slept a lot during the day and I was able to be productive.  But, I was so tired!  Finally, the weekend came and Ryan started helping at night and what a difference that made :o). 
I was doing the leg work to find the next place for the baby to go and there were a lot of options, but the best seemed to be a single mom in Livermore who happens to attend our church and wanted to adopt again and also was in need of a placement by the end of the year, so I called her to see if she would be interested and she came over to meet him.  She was on board to take him during our vacation and long-term.  The social worker came the following week and was not very appreciative that I had solved her problem.  Also told me I should have never taken the placement if I didn't want to adopt.  Her judgement went on and on and she was very, very rude, but God had a plan I do believe this was it!  The new foster mom needed that extra time that we had him to get things in order.  The social worker made the process very stressful for us, but in the end, the plan worked and he seems to be on the fast track to be adopted (we both adopted around the same time the first time, but her process was finished in 5 months and ours was over 5 1/2 years, so we were at the most opposite ends of the spectrum and we got a good laugh about that, but it is looking like it might happen this way again for her which is unheard of!!!  But, good for her!). 
The new foster mom had a trip planned in January and asked if we would take him for the long weekend (she has a 3 1/2 year old and traveling with a newborn just wasn't in the cards).  We have had him a few times since and it has been great to be able to support her and give her a breather (I have no idea how she does it night after night!).  And, it is awesome for us to be able to see him grow and the kids LOVE him.  He is smiling now and much more alert and even Reggie is a fan.  I usually have to ask him to take the baby for a few minutes, but he is willing and learning how it all works.  Not sure what is next but we are trusting God and hoping it becomes clear when the time is right. 
Here's a picture, although it isn't very good because we can't show his face due to privacy.  Funny story though, I thought he was a white baby until I changed him at the hospital and noticed his balls were black.  I was confused and asked the nurse if they knew his nationality and she said he was african american.  I guess they start out light and get darker (he is very dark now).

The cat was not a fan and our house was in disarray!