Life Lately June Edition!

June has come and gone, and I have survived my first full month with three kids! All three kids have been at home the entire month, and we are starting to get a grip on what life looks like with three kids and such a wide age range.

Our June calendar was chalk full from morning until evening almost every single day. I am exhausted. I am pretty much homeschooling Heavenly- without assessment or curriculum. I know what grade level she has finished, but I do not know what grade level she is actually operating at. Heavenly has had no less than 6 appointments/meetings a week, which makes for a lot of crazy running around. Then, I try to add some fun things to the schedule on top of all this not so fun stuff.

This past weekend, Theo and I sat down and discussed everything that we can possibly take off our plates in order to make everything less chaotic. Hopefully July will be a little slower and feel a little bit more like summer.

I also hate that these pictures do not accurately show our whole family of five. If you don’t see a picture of Heavenly there, rest assured that she is there and that I have taken many photos of her, I just can’t share them here.

Anyways, here is a peak into our June…

We took Heavenly out for froyo on the day she finished up school! Her grades were less than stellar, but she still finished the school year despite facing things most adults don’t even have to think about, so I think that deserves celebrating!

She also snapped this picture of Tera:

We attended First Friday in Xenia, which is always a blast!

The animals are always a hit!

And the people on stilts are so fun!!

We have also been trying to play in the water whenever we can squeeze it into our schedule. I may or may not have invited myself and the kids over to a friends house who has a pool. Thanks, Natalie! It was a blast!

We’ve spent lots of time at the local parks!

One day we went to watch Theo and his classmates practice driving their squad cars! The pre-teen might have gone a little crazy over so many men in uniform driving very fast (eyeroll).

We also had a blast attending an FCC Cincinnati soccer game with some friends from church!

At the end of the National Anthem, they had a bald eagle fly down into the field. #AMERICA. It was actually really cool, though!

Soccer games with three kids are nothing like soccer games before three kids. We had five bathroom trips, approximately 99 requests to buy cotton candy (#denied #99times), one $4 bottle of water (in addition to the 4 bottles of water we snuck in), and TONS of whining about when the game would be over. Still, it was really fun!

We had an awesome Dayton Moms Blog playdate at Goldfish Swim School. Guys, I am seriously SO impressed with this facility.  The entire pool is SO kid friendly. I mean, I went solo with three kids and didn’t feel overwhelmed. The swim lessons and membership are more than I am able to pay, but I still do highly recommend it if you are looking for something and open to that price bracket!

*Feel free to join the Dayton Moms Blog for our July Playdate on July 14th! It is at Aullwood Farm and the entry is FREE as long as you snag tickets!

We also celebrated Thomas’ first birthday party! How is he one? How are our second children already one???? Weren’t we just pregnant with our now toddlers?

Speaking of which, Kiah is now 8 months old! He is crawling everywhere and popped two teeth through!

We’ve been eating popsicles on the front porch…

 

This month I also finally had the chance to get my skin/moles checked by a dermatologist. I have a couple spots that need to be removed, but I appear to be in the clear! Woohoo! I highly recommend making a dermatologist appointment just to get checked out.

We enjoyed taking some gender reveal photos for a friend! IT’S A GIRL! Heavenly took these pictures…I think she completely missed the point of getting the family IN the picture because she was so excited about the pink, glittery confetti. Thankfully I had another camera and Theo took a video or that would have been a disaster. Lol.

The pictures I find on my camera…

We are taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and spending as much time outdoors as possible. One Saturday we decided to hike a new trail. It had rained a lot the day before, and most the trails were completely flooded. There was a boardwalk, but it was underwater. We had a BLAST hiking this flooded trail! For those of you who have asked, it is Seibenthaler Fen Boardwalk .

Heavenly found and caught this turtle! It’s now our family pet.

We also managed to do a 1000 piece puzzle this month! Heavenly saw me take it out and couldn’t believe that I would do such a boring thing for FUN. Well, guess who was just as into the puzzle as I was?? This girl right here! She was elated to put the last piece in!

 

Phew, I am glad that June is done, but we sure did have some fun!

Just for fun:

My Most Popular Post in June: Abigail Nicole: One Year Since Goodbye

Dayton Moms Blog Post: Pinching Our Pennies: The Top 5 Ways we Save 

June Book Review

*I have received books in this post in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

June has been a very crazy month and I really can’t believe that it is already over. It wasn’t all fun and games and I feel like I packed more into this month than any other month of my life. I’m exhausted. Because of this, I did not get as much reading done as I would have liked, but in July I’m planning on stepping away from my phone and computer and doing more reading whenever possible.

The first book I read this month was Killing Patton.

The cover declares that this book is all about the strange and mysterious death of WWII most audacious general. Spoiler alert: everything about his death was in the last chapter. The rest of the book was all about WWII strategy and all the different generals that were involved in the war, especially the end of the war. This book was both boring and fascinating. I found myself wanting to read more, and then falling asleep reading it. History and war is not really my cup of tea, but I think it’s very good to sometimes step out of my comfort zone and read something that stretches me a little bit more. I love learning interesting facts and tidbits about world leaders, and conspiracy theories absolutely fascinate me…but the war strategies were the things that put me to sleep. I would never pick up this book to read again, but I am glad that I read it and learned far more than I ever knew before about WWII!

 

The second book I read was What Alice Forgot.

Guys, I’m not going to lie that I LOVE this author. It’s clean, it’s gripping and it makes me think. Liane Moriarty is brilliant and I love the way that she draws the reader into a story. It’s almost like I’m there. I especially appreciate that her books are almost completely clean (no language or sexual description whatsoever…one or two of her other books have a scene here or there, but seriously clean compared to some of the other books I’ve attempted to read in this genre). Anyways, this book is about a woman who falls and hits her head. When she wakes up she has forgotten 10 years of her life. She is divorcing the love of her life, she has three kids and she is not exactly pleased with who she has become and the relationships that have developed in the past ten years. This book seriously made me think about my life. Where will I be 10 years from now? How can I prevent my relationships from falling by the wayside in the name of money or selfishness? I love this one and it’s the perfect light summer read that makes me think!

A Severe Mercy

I have had this book on my shelf for years now, and for some reason I have never read it. I finally picked it up this month and dove in. This autobiography is written in the late 1970s, so it has a lot of older English and is very much an older style of writing (slower pace, more descriptive, etc). Sheldon Vanauken chronicles he and his wife love story: from the first time they met until they end, when his wife died at a very young age. Several years into their marriage, they become believers and most of the book is dedicated to their coming to know Christ and their relationship with Him. Sheldon also became friends with C.S. Lewis, and the book includes many letters written back and forth between the friends. After Davy (the wife) dies, Sheldon is left to grieve. In his grief he realizes that he can either draw closer to God or turn away from him. It is a beautiful story of how God makes beauty from ashes, and how the most severe things in our lives are designed to bring us to God’s mercy.

Seasons 

Seasons is a beautiful and simple children’s book celebrating the four seasons that God has created.

Each season has a short, descriptive reflection and then a refrain that is carried throughout the entire store. The refrain is such a beautiful reflection of the goodness of God and goes like this:

Remember, God is good all of the time. In all seasons of life He’ll never change. Yes, my God is good all of the time. So let’s praise Him for all of our days.

After each season, this refrain is repeated. The illustrations are my probably my favorite part of this book! The beautiful and whimsical watercolors paint so vividly all four of the seasons and the goodness of God throughout. I love reading this book to my kids, and both Tera and Heavenly have a copy of the book on their shelves! They love reading it and I know that they will for years to come!

You can order a copy of the book for yourself, or your children at www.seasonspicturebook.com

 

And that’s it for June! What are you reading this summer?

January//February//March//April//May 

2016 books 

The Day My Kids Got In A Fight

It’s MINE!

No, it’s NOT yours, ITS MINE!

Do these words sound familiar?

I bet if you talk to any Mom, anywhere, at any time, they have heard this phrase shouted over and over again throughout the course of the day.

It’s enough to make any Mom roll her eyes back in her head and question why she decided to become a mother.

But in our house? It’s a completely different story.

This was the first time my girls have ever gotten into a fight. This was the first time that my two girls were looking at each other and feeling unable to tolerate one another. This was the first time that my girls were acting like sisters.  Real, true, life-long siblings. The first time. It took five weeks for our Heavenly to feel comfortable enough around us all to let loose and yell at Tera. It was the first time that emotions won over politeness and courage won over fear. It was so much more than an argument between two sisters.

No, I’m not a supermom and I didn’t jump up and down and throw confetti in the air because I was so happy they were fighting. In fact, I reacted just the way any ‘ol Mom would react and began to rebuke Heavenly for her harsh words. Before I could turn to Tera and also reprimand her, Heavenly began to react to me. It escalated far enough that Theo sent us all to our rooms (lol, even me) and talked individually to everyone.

Turns out our sweet Heavenly needed to erect a wall around herself as quickly as possible because she felt that Mama Bear was just lashing out at her to protect Tera. I can totally see where she got that from. And within the course of five minutes, we quickly learned what our Heavenly’s coping mechanism is when she is feeling threatened. It’s not the healthiest of coping mechanisms, but all in one fight we learned some of the most crucial parenting need-to-knows. What her triggers are, what her defensive mechanisms are and what she is like when she is experiencing big emotions.

It’s something we as biological parents take for granted. I’ve been with Tera every single day of her life and know her feelings and emotions sometimes even better than she does. I know her tendencies and her triggers and I also know when her buttons are being pushed and when she is pushing buttons.

We don’t have that advantage as foster parents. We don’t even know that the child exists 24 hours before they show up on our doorstep. We don’t know what they have been through or what they have built up as their defense mechanisms. We don’t know their triggers or the things that most push their buttons.

So when things like this go down…it’s hard. We might yell and fight and many tears are shed. We are not immune to all the emotions, in fact we probably have them all in excess.

But, in hindsight, I’m thankful. I’m so very thankful that y girls got in their first fight. I’m so glad that Heavenly feels safe enough in our home to fight with her sister. I’m so glad that Tera didn’t think twice about yelling at her. I am so glad that we have a safe home to learn safe coping mechanisms.

So every time my girls fight (they do it quite often, now), I need to remind myself of this. They are acting like sisters, and that is a beautiful thing.

What are you thankful for this week?

 

Why We Have Chosen to Foster When Our Kids are Little

I want to start this post off with a HUGE disclaimer: foster care is a serious commitment and one that should not be taken lightly. It’s a hard road to walk and only a family who is fully being led to do it should do it.

I do not expect every family I run into to become foster parents. I do not think that’s even slightly realistic. However, I wanted to address something that has come up frequently in the last three years that I have been in the role of foster parent.

Many, many people tell me that they would really like to pursue foster care….when their kids are older. Now, I totally get it. It makes sense- older kids are more independent, can defend themselves against the words and actions of kids from tough backgrounds, older kids are usually out of the home for long periods of time during the day, and are just far less demanding and hands-on than younger children. Plus, young children are EXHAUSTING and adding foster children to the plate does not seem feasible.

But I think that there are downsides to fostering while having older kids, and they are not talked about as often. Sometimes it seems that the people I talk to are using this idea as an excuse- thinking about becoming a foster parent is terrifying, and putting distance between us and that decision with the age of our kids helps bring comfort to the idea of doing this job.

Listen- there is no formula for the perfect time to become a foster parent. What works for one family absolutely will not work for another family. What works for our family will not work for yours. However, if the Lord has called us to fostering, he will also provide for us every step of the way- whether our kids at home are younger or older.

Perhaps you are thinking about doing foster care, but you aren’t sure that having young kids while fostering is a good idea. I just wanted to share several reasons that having young kids while fostering has worked so well for us. Again, I do not think that these are blanket statements, and while they are true for my kids, they may not be true for yours. But perhaps there is someone out there who has really felt led to pursue foster care but have heard so much about waiting until the kids are older because it will be “easier” then. I have not found that to true, and I am so thankful that we have chosen to be involved in the foster care system while our kids are younger.

  1. Kids are a healing balm in the bandaid of foster care. Every child in foster care has been through trauma- this might be reoccurring trauma, or perhaps it is just the trauma of being removed from their parents and their home. I have found that foster care doesn’t often solve these problems, but instead slaps a bandaid over it, hoping to heal the wounds of the child and the family. Both children we have taken in through foster care have bonded almost immediately with our biological children, and have therefore felt almost immediately comfortable in our home. I can’t imagine how much different and harder the bonding and comfort level would be if we didn’t have younger children in the home to ease this transition. Even if foster care doesn’t solve the deep set problems, I have found that my children are like healing balm to the child who is going through this difficult time.
  2. Kids are a bridge to the birth parents. With both children I have fostered, the biological parent has relaxed immediately upon seeing me with my biological children. Abi’s Mom even commented: “I know that you are not trying to take her from me because you already have your own kids”. Heavenly’s Mom held Kiah the entire PCP meeting. Again, it makes everyone just a little more comfortable and relaxed when there are cute babies in the room. It allows people to have conversation and ask questions and see one another as people and parents, not just statistics. And, yes, both birth parents of my girls have indeed met my children.
  3. Kids are resilient. Another reason that fostering while the kids are younger is because they just take it for what it is. Did my two year old grieve when Abi left last summer? ABSOLUTELY. But she is resilient and bounced back after just a few months. She still talks about Abi and loves looking at pictures of her, but she easily understands and accepts that these children coming into our home are here for a short time and then will move on. Of course, as our bio kids grow older, we will continue to reevaluate if the grief and constant goodbyes are having ill effects, and proceed carefully.
  4. Kids are accepting. One of the hardest days of foster care is the first day. An absolute stranger is brought into our home and we are expected to parent, love and provide for this child who has probably had the worst day of their life. I find that with my young ones around, this transition goes so much easier. They throw open all the cupboards. share their toys and are more than happy to give a tour of the house. Tera plopped down in Heavenly’s lap almost immediately, asking to be read a book. They don’t ask what her past history is or what behaviors we can expect or why she doesn’t have any clothes. They don’t ask what happened to Mom or why her Dad _______. They just see a new sibling and are good to go.
  5. Kids are equipped. I truly believe that if God is calling a family to foster, he is calling the entire family, parents and children- older or younger. Our sweet Tera is an introverted and on paper would be a terrible foster sister. She doesn’t do well with new people, she doesn’t do well with change. And yet she does fabulous with all the ins and outs of foster care. I can’t help but watch her and know that God gave her some special coping skills for being a foster sister.

Bonus: It is so good for my kids. My own biological children have already learned so much through this journey of foster care. They have learned what helping is, what sacrificing is and what it’s like to literally be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who have nobody else. They are learning that life isn’t always easy for everybody, and that the whole world doesn’t have to revolve around them for it to keep spinning. They are learning how to share time and space and toys and how to be accepting of everyone no matter their language, skin tone or background. I assure you that for every moment of questioning why we would do this, I am so thankful that my kids get to participate in one of the greatest love stories in the world.

I know that whatever your family circumstances, if God is calling you to foster care, he will lead you through it. It’s not easy to find the balance of wisely protecting our biological children from the harms of the world while taking in children with ‘colorful’ pasts. There is no magic formula of what is right and wrong, and to be honest it’s always terrifying. I hope that this post does not come across as condescending, but instead will encourage you to think about foster care with biological children in a slightly different light.

 

I’d love to hear from you- if you are a foster parent with biological or adopted children, how do you manage the age dynamic? How old were your children when you started fostering and what are your thoughts on this? Have you ever mixed up your birth order?

Please, as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions that you may have. You can leave a comment here or on any of my social media accounts as well as by sending me an email at [email protected]

For those of you who are new around here, we are Theo and Suzanne Hines. We began the process to become foster parents just two years into our marriage. Shortly after beginning the process, we became pregnant with our first daughter, Tera. This was totally planned and expected- we always wanted both biological children and to use our home and our lives to foster children as well. When Tera was 13 months old, we got our first placement- a newborn baby girl (yes, the girls were 13 months apart!). Several months into fostering Abigail, we got pregnant with Kiah. Also totally planned and rejoiced over. When Kiah was 7 months old, we welcomed our 10 year old foster daughter Heavenly into our home. We currently have Tera, Kiah and Heavenly and still maintain contact with Abi, too! Yes, I know that we are crazy blessed.

Hezekiah James: 8 Months

Our Kiah man turned 8 months old last week! It doesn’t seem possible that I have the sweetest chillest and most adorable baby boy who is now crawling…but I do! Oh, King, we sure do ADORE you!!!

Weight: 16 pounds!

Eating: He has finally found his groove with eating. He sits at his high chair with us and eats everything we are eating at our meals! He’s still drinking 5-6 oz of milk every 4ish hours. It’s so nice to hit this stage where they kind of start feeding themselves and I don’t have to do 110% of the work. Except for sweeping the floor since he probably gets at least 75% of what I give to him on the floor. You win some, you lose some.

Sleeping: The week after Heavenly arrived, Kiah started sleeping through the night and I think it was a direct answer to prayer. I could not physically handle the rigors of three children while being up all night with Kiah. So I’m SO THANKFUL that he is now sleeping through the night. He takes 2-3 fairly solid naps during the day, although the time and length of these naps greatly varies! Mostly he just gets hauled around with both big sisters and whenever we have a short break at home he squeezes in a nap. Poor kid.

Clothing/Diapers: We just moved into 6 month clothes! I love the summertime when he really only needs to wear a onesie or even just a diaper. It saves me so much laundry!!

Personality: This kid is the sweetest and most content baby. EVER. He loves to be held and talked to and loved on. He smiles at everyone and just cuddles himself into my neck whenever I pick him up. He’s seriously so happy and so, so, so chill. We went mini golfing with some of Heavenly’s friends, who all happen to be her age. We were putting him down in the grass at all the holes because I forgot my carrier. He was just so content sitting there in the grass.

Developments: WE HAVE A CRAWLER! He’s moving everywhere now!

I have seen him pull himself up once or twice on things, too. It’s all going to go super fast into the world of toddler destruction from here on out!

I’ve heard him say both Mama and Dada but I don’t think he knows what he is saying yet.

Eating, Eating, Eating!

Likes: Kiah likes pretty much everything, but mostly he LOVES his two sisters. He loves smiling at people and playing peekaboo with anyone.

Dislikes: We had a rough week or two where he wanted to crawl so bad but he just couldn’t get it. He wasn’t content to just sit because he wanted to move, but then he would get on his hands and knees and be completely stuck. He cried a lot during that week!

He has started to dislike bedtime and started to give some attitude when we lay him down for naps/bedtime.

What We Are Loving: I love watching him respond to us! And to find his own way around the house. He’s so proud of himself for crawling!

What We Are Struggling With: I honestly love this stage, so I have no complaints! I am, however, 100% ready to be done breastfeeding/pumping. I’m hoping that I will make it to one year, but four more months sounds really daunting to me. Meh.

1 month//2 months//3 months//4 months//5 months//6 months//7 months

Tera at 8 months