Friday, November 30, 2012

A Quick Foster Care Update

Like many things in life, foster care is a bit of a "hurry up and wait" situation. You take your classes and turn in your paper work, then wait. Then a social worker begins her visits and interviews with you, then you wait. Then once you're approved, you just wait for the call saying there's a kid who needs you!

Right now, we're at the second of the above waiting periods. Our social worker had to turn in all her forms and stuff about us last week, so theoretically, we're being handed over to placement to be on the list for all these three a.m. phone calls we've heard so much about. I don't know if we'll get a specific call telling us, "ok, you're approved, be ready," or if we'll just get that midnight phone call one of these days. (I'll call our social worker and ask about that, I guess.)

At our last interview, she told us she was recommending us for kids 0-6 years old, just one at a time to start off with. (We're open to sibling groups, but she suggests we ease into things at first!)

I've got a lot of nervous energy these days, and had a dream last night that we got a little baby named Claire, who was just a little younger than our Claire, so we had two Claires. Interesting. I have moments of anxiety, but mostly it's just excitement, and the peace that comes with knowing we're doing something we're called to do.

A fearful side of me dreams up worst-case scenarios of how our family might be affected, but honestly, the big "horror story" that comes to mind isn't even reality, but a line from Anne of Green Gables, when Mrs. Lynde warns Marilla about adopting, saying there was an orphan in some other town who poisoned the well and killed the whole family.

In reality, what I keep hearing over and over are stories of families and children blessed by fostering:
  • the mechanic at CarMax who told me about his best friend, whose family fostered throughout his growing up years, and who still considers all those children his brothers and sisters.
  • the old lady on a bus who told my coworker how she gets so many calls on Mother's Day from grown children she fostered. 
  • kids whose families fostered who are now going to school in social work and can't wait to become foster parents themselves.
Life won't be all sunshine and roses, I know. (One foster mom blogger I now read closes about half of her posts with the words "foster care sucks," mainly for how much the system jerks them around.) But we're opening our home in love and opening our hearts in faith. Can't wait to keep you posted!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

So I'm a little late with the holiday recap, despite the fact that our Thanksgiving weekend included plenty of "lying around time." 

I realized Sunday night how relaxing our holiday had been, having not traveled for Thanksgiving for the first time in . . . well, since leaving home for college, I guess. We went to Matt's parents' house for a big midday meal and hung out until what would have been dinnertime, had we needed to eat again, but otherwise enjoyed a lot of time just being together at home. 

Thanksgiving began with coffee and muffins, and I realized how late the Macy's parade comes on. I guess with grandparents in the house in past years, I got to sleep in until closer to parade time! 

The girls wore their politically-incorrect Indian headbands. (Kate had made hers at school last year, and she and I made Claire's together.)

And I made my one contribution to Thanksgiving dinner: a pumpkin pie with a braided crust. I'm not a foodie at all, putting presentation over culinary skill, so in true Jessica fashion, I used Pillsbury crusts and put my energy instead into dividing, rolling, and braiding strips of dough, then agonizing over the baking process to make sure my creation didn't burn.

It didn't :0)

The real bird was lovely as well.

Claire ate plenty of pumpkin muffins, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and broccoli casserole, while Kate enjoyed the giant turkey leg!

As always, I am most thankful for my beautiful girls.

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keep Thanksgiving Autumnal!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Holiday of cornucopias, turkeys, and pumpkin pie.
So why are Christmas lights and wreaths going up?!?!? And Christmas music playing?! 
For so many people, Christmas begins with Thanksgiving week (or maybe before).

But as for me and my house . . .

There will still be pumpkins . . .

 . . . and leafy garlands.

. . . and even pumpkins dressed up as turkeys!

 We've had a delightful fall. I love it every year . . .

And Thanksgiving will still be decked in oranges and browns (and cute little turkey applique shirts I made with Heat 'n' Bond). The red and green can wait a few more days. Goshdarnit.

So tonight I'm making cranberry sauce, and watching some Thanksgiving episodes of "Friends" . . .

. . . and looking forward to drinking Starbucks Thanksgiving blend coffee while watching the Macy's parade tomorrow morning and baking my pumpkin pies. And while I may set a few holly-and-evergreen arrangements on the bookshelf, you can rest assured it is only to serve as a backdrop for the Christmas card photo we're planning to take—and then they will go back into the closet for at least 24 more hours until the pinnacle of the glorious fall season is passed.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving—and give that lonely pumpkin a salute as it stands watch, humbly reflecting the glow of a neighbor's twinkle lights.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Grocery List for Kids

My mommy-heart grew three sizes the other night when Kate and I packed lunches for "the men who sleep at church." Our church participates in Room in the Inn, a program in Nashville through which churches host homeless men during the colder months of the year. Every Wednesday evening, our church van goes to the downtown pick up location and brings ten men back to have dinner, shower and sleep, and eat breakfast. They are given sack lunches when driven back downtown in the morning. 

Packing those lunches is one way our family can participate in this great ministry, and it is a great way to help Kate learn and practice our chief family value of compassion. I love how naturally generous and helpful kids can be, and Kate's enthusiasm for packing these lunches for "our guests" warms my heart. We counted out the paper bags, and she put an orange, a water bottle, and a bag of chips in each one while I made the PBJs. Then she cheerfully offered up some of her Halloween candy for their desserts (though we ended up putting in some of our leftover rainbow cookies from Claire's party instead, so they wouldn't go stale before we could eat them all).

To help her be even more involved, I made an illustrated grocery list specifically for the items we need to buy when we do these lunches.

The other side is items that our church food pantry collects. We don't need to get every item every time, of course, but my hope is that she can carry this list when we go grocery shopping, and spot some of these items to add to our cart.

I'm linking this post up with Kristen Welch's Works for Me Wednesday, so while we're at it, here's a bonus "works for me" tip: if you want something laminated,  but don't want to spend the time or money to take it to Kinko's or wherever, use strips of packing tape to laminate it on the cheap! Just cover both sides of the paper, overlapping the strips slightly so water can't get through, and make sure the tape extends beyond the edges of the paper so they can be pressed together to seal it. Trim with a quarter-inch of tape around the edge so it will stay sealed!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Claire at One Year

Oh, Clairy. One year old already! Time for a big milestones report...

The Stats
Claire was 28.5 inches long/tall at her one year appointment on Wednesday, and 21 lbs, 13 oz. So, in her first year, she grew eight inches and about tripled her body weight.

She's "true to size" in clothes, so she's just now starting to wear some 12-18 month clothes, though most 6-12 month still fit and the 12-18 month pants are pretty long. She's going to be a little more petite in height, I think. She wears a size 2 shoe and size 3 diaper.

She took her first steps on October 8, at 11 months and 1 week old, and by her first birthday could walk halfway across the room, but (as someone on Facebook, can't remember who, said of their baby) walking "is more a party trick than a mode of transportation." That changed in the last week, and she's been choosing to walk longer distances now. She can also climb steps (on all fours) and now we have to keep a gate across the bottom of the staircase too. She disappeared from the playroom yesterday and we found her up in my craft room, getting supplies out of the cabinet!

Claire has five teeth now. After getting her bottom front two and top front two, her first incisor (the bottom right one) started coming through a few weeks ago. She takes a couple naps at school, one on the weekends, and sleeps about 10-11 hours at night, still waking at least once. (Usually, it's just 4:30, then she'll go back to sleep until about 6.)

She can say "dada," "kitty," and "Kate," so I'm the only one in the house who needs no introduction (we'll frame it that way!) She points to me if someone asks about Mommy, though, and she could identify herself in a picture this morning. I think she also said "balloon" today, when playing with the balloon Kate got at a birthday party yesterday.

She started drinking cow's milk at school this past week and is more or less self-weaning. I decided I would stop pumping at the one year mark and continue to nurse her morning, night, and weekends as long as the milk held out. (Kate, you'll recall, didn't nurse, but I pumped for her for a year and the massive frozen stash lasted until she was 16 months.) I didn't have such an overabundance with Claire, so our frozen stash was never more than ten bags or so, and was gone before the one year mark. Though she always needed to be nursed to sleep, she started getting more independent in that department a few weeks ago, nursing just a little and then going down awake (yay!) so she doesn't nurse too much anymore (boo). I'll be curious to see how long a tail my supply will have, since she nurses at most four times a day, and not much each time.

Stuff Claire Likes
Claire likes to watch and learn to do what Big Sister is doing, so she can color with a crayon and make noble efforts at doing jigsaw puzzles and playing Chutes and Ladders. I'm hoping this desire to imitate will extend to potty training! Kate sometimes struggles to share toys, but generally they play pretty nicely together.

Claire also likes to hug and cuddle. Her favorite "game," I might say, is standing over you while you're laying on the ground and just doing a freefall onto your face. She'll laugh and laugh. I love how kids just trust that you will always catch them.

Claire still loves to eat. She was a voracious nurser from the start, started eating table food not too long after we started pureed solids, and will eat just about anything. She enjoyed her first ice cream the night of her birthday (a family tradition we've developed, since both girls' first birthdays were on weekdays and we wanted something fun for that day, before the party the following weekend). She had pumpkin pie ice cream from Baskin-Robbins.

I'd be hard pressed to say what her favorite foods are, since she really will eat most anything put in front of her. She even wanted to try deep fried oreos when Matt got some at a festival a few weeks ago! She'll clamor for it, too. Don't get between this girl and her food!

Popi kept saying her middle name should be "Mellow." She really does just go with the flow most of the time. She'll have her toddler-esque moments when she dramatically puts her forehead to the ground or wall and cries (usually when we take something away from her or make her get out of the fridge so we can close the door) but she is a very sweet, accepting child. When I was expecting her, people said how she would have to be a pistol to keep up with Kate, but I willed her to be more calm and quiet, not just for my own sanity, but for her sake as well. Two strong winds collide to make a tornado, but a flexible tree can stand her ground with the wind, standing strong without being broken.

A Few More Sweet Photos
'Nough said. Look at this sweet little cutie!
Pretty with pumpkins.

With Mommy on her first birthday (Nov. 1)

Clapping along with the bluegrass music at the Music and Molasses Festival.

Matchy-matchy playing with sister.
Rainbow hairbow

Wanting Daddy to lift her, Dirty Dancing style, like he was doing to Kate.

Babies and Kids for Obama!

That's my girl! On to toddlerhood!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rainbow Cookies

I was really excited about the rainbow cookies I made for Claire's party. They were actually inspired by the candy corn cookies we made a few weeks ago—a layered sugar cookie sliced to reveal all the colors. The steps are pretty much the same, just more/different colors and a different slicing pattern.

Step 1: Mix up a sugar cookie dough. Here is the original recipe for the candy corn cookies I found on Kathie Cooks. It is lemon flavored and quite a nice texture.

Step 2: Divide dough evenly into separate bowls for each color, and dye to desired shade with food coloring.

Step 3: Press each layer firmly into a baking dish (might wish to line with parchment paper for easy removal) OR roll each layer out with a rolling pin and stack. I used the dish method for the candy corn ones, and found it was hard to make each layer even (see how bumpy my orange layer is in the picture above?) so I rolled each layer for the rainbow cookies. The edges are uneven, then, as you see below, but inside the "loaf," they are much more even.

Step 4: Wrap the layered "loaf" of dough (remove from baking dish, if you've used that method for assembling the layers) and place in fridge for at least two hours to firm. You can keep the dough for up to a week wrapped in the fridge, to make fresh cookies in several batches, like a homemade slice-and-bake roll. I did that with the candy corn ones. 

Step 5: Remove from fridge and slice into bars of about 1/4 inch thick. For the rainbow cookies, I sliced each strip in half to make bars about 3-4 inches long. For the candy corn cookies, angle your knife back and forth to make 6-7 triangles out of the long strip.

Step 6: Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 for about 10 minutes. Cookies will expand slightly. (I worried that I made the rainbow cookies too flat, resulting in too thin a bar, but the 1-inch wide bar expanded to about 1.25-1.5 inch after baking.)

Step 7: Add the finishing touch. Kathie's recipe calls for dusting the candy corn cookies in sugar (though they are quite tasty without it) and I added a frosting "cloud" to the end of my rainbow cookie bars.

Step 8: Serve and enjoy!

I'm notorious for botching dessert recipes that require even the tiniest amount of skill, but I've managed these layer cookies twice in the last month!

Sharing the wealth of this slightly-easier-than-it-looks recipe, I'm linking up at Kristen Welch's  Works for Me Wednesday and with Clever Chicks blog hop!

Project Life Monthly (June and July)

Now that I have Claire's rainbow party (and all the decorating and baking to prepare for it!) behind me, I finally started my September spreads last night! So, I'm a little behind with my monthly version of Project Life, but (fortunately?) I'm even further behind in sharing those spreads with you! Today, let me show you my June and July spreads.

In June, I took the girls to Louisville for a weekend and Kate stayed the whole week. Mom and Dad brought her back the following week when they came to town for (drumroll, please) Matt's ordination. As you see on the pic with his mentors, the text I gave it was "FINALLY!" If you know anything about the United Methodist system, this will make sense to you.

I split several photos across photo pockets. It's a practical solution to fitting all the photos you want, but also gives a cool look, I think. (I didn't make much room for my "June" header, though, obviously!)

The opposite page is pretty basic, except for the little "Mercurial" faces of Kate thing. Several pics from the same day showed her crazy moods, illustrating well why our word for her personality these days is "mercurial."

The back of that page highlights some of Kate's fun activities with her friends: a going-away playdate for a sweet friend who moved away, a birthday party for another friend, and then VBS at church/school.

July had to be red, white, and blue, of course, and starts with my birthday: July 4! It's such a fun birthday to have, since everybody's off work and school and we can always have big cookouts and such. We did a family brunch that morning to celebrate. My mother-in-law's birthday is the 5th, so it was a joint celebration.

This page has some pics form the brunch at the bottom, but then a special thing at the top (that, actually, I never blogged about, though I should have!) With my birthday being July 4th, I've always loved fireworks, and have said for a while that I thought it would be really neat to see fireworks from above, from an airplane. Last year, for my 30th, Matt and I looked at going on a little weekend trip to New York or somewhere, and flying home on the evening of the Fourth, so we could see the fireworks on our return flight. With new house and pregnancy and all, it just didn't make sense, but Matt arranged this year for us to take a ride in a biplane that night to see the fireworks! (If you're in Nashville, check out Music City Biplane Tours!)

It was very hot up there in July, sitting so close to the engine, so it wasn't the most comfortable way to travel, but was a really cool experience. We flew around the outskirts of Nashville, and then circled downtown a gazillion times during the big riverfront fireworks show! I called it a "bucket list" kind of experience.
My messy face girls, the clouded leopard cubs at the zoo, and riding the zoo carousel with Nala on the left. On the right, a clipping from Parents magazine, where one of Kate's zingers made it into the Baby Bloopers, and at the bottom, the heart-and-bandage logo of our foster care training class, PATH (Parents as Tender Healers).

Finally, a spread about all the fun we had watching the Olympics. We had an opening ceremonies party, and enjoyed watching gymnastics and swimming throughout the summer games. The righthand page there is just an 8.5 x 11 page protector filled with some of our crafts and coloring sheets from those fun two weeks.

Check out other folks' memory-keeping at The Mom Creative's Project Life Tuesday!


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