Monday, December 29, 2014

Grandpa's Birthday

John and Solveig happened to be passing through on John's birthday.  My parents were also in town so we celebrated with a lovely dinner and some cupcakes.

 Singing Happy Birthday.
Gus wanted to make sure he got one of those cupcakes, he is holding Anders back.

 These are banana cupcakes filled with chocolate ganache.  Topped with whipped cream and some more chocolate, these things were delicious.

The boys enjoyed spending the day with Grandpa.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Camp Pioneer

While the boys and I were in New York we went to the annual chicken dinner fundraiser for Camp Pioneer.  Every year people from area congregations come out for food and fellowship.  Along with the delicious dinner there are also tons of activities for the kids like a train ride, jumpies, and various other outdoor games.

I really should have taken a picture of the food.  It was fantastic.

 One of the activities they had was this jumpie-joust-wrestling thing.  John and Gus were both anxious to get in there and fight each other.

 Gus won this one.  But I have to say that John was an excellent big brother and let both of his brothers win every single time.

 Anders still talks about how he knocked John off of the podium.  This is probably a great stress reliever game.

 John badly wanted to fight Jimmy.  John fought pretty hard and was excited to win.

 I love swings like this.  It took a little practice to get the boys going on these.  But they really enjoyed them after they got the hang of it.

After swinging for a bit it started to pour.  We found some shelter and thought we would wait out the storm, but it just started raining harder.  We finally decided just to run out to the car.  We managed to get completely soaked.  The boys thought running in the rain was fun...once they were able to get warm.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Trip to New York

This summer the boys and I headed to New York to celebrate my cousin's graduation from high school.  We had just gotten back from Germany a week earlier, so Hans had to stay behind and do pastor stuff.  I'm sure glad the boys are good in the car.

 The boys seem to like being on vacation.

 Hopefully Jimmy will always tolerate a good beat down from the Fiene boys.  They love tackling him.

 My Uncle Tim is so kind and always offers to take the boys for rides on the tractor.  They LOVE driving the tractor.

 John looks so intent and Uncle Tim looks a little worried.  These are completely normal things when it comes to John.

 Although, out of all 3 Fienes, I would be most worried about this one.  Anders is a stinker.

 My aunt always has fun things for the kids to do.  Tractors and bubbles...the boys couldn't be happier.

 The boys loved this outdoor dog kennel.  They played in here for a long time.  I should get one of these at home!

Gus was given a SpongeBob camera for his birthday.  John and Gus had a great time taking picture of each other.

Mother and daughter.
Love these two to pieces.

We had a wonderful weekend.  The boys and I got to see a bunch of family and the boys managed to charm them all. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Journey to Fostering

Wow!  It has been 6 weeks since my last post.  That might have been the longest stretch of time I've gone between posts.  To say things have been crazy around here would be an understatement.

Around this time 5 years ago I met a little boy while working at a childcare center in Denver who was in foster care.  I shared a little of his story and my thoughts here.  Ever since then Hans and I have discussed becoming foster parents.  But about a month after this I found out I was pregnant again.  And then we moved to Illinois just 2 months after I gave birth to Anders.  Then we just spent the next couple of years getting settled.  Settled in a new state, settled in the congregation, settled in a new house, and settled as a family of 5.  We have an unbelievably amazing support system here.  Add that to our wonderfully supportive family and Hans and I started thinking about fostering again.  Then, when our good friends from Denver told us they were going through the process to become foster parents we just had to follow through.

I have learned many things going through this process.  In some ways I feel as though I have lived a lifetime in just a year.  The process to become a foster parent can be exhausting and not for the faint of heart.  One year after calling the Department of Child and Family Services of Illinois (DCFS) and inquiring about the program we received our license in the mail.  This is not typical.  So I'm told.  If you look at the DCFS website, it tells you the licensing process can take anywhere from 3-8 months. When I asked as to why the big range in time the licensing worker told me that they (state workers) do everything they can to push this through, but that the prospective foster parents can make the process longer by not getting their stuff done such as the classes, health exams, and application forms.  Well that was not going to be me.  I am efficient.  Okay, to be honest my blogging hasn't been getting done in a timely manner, but in this part of my life I am super efficient.  Once the agency we were sent to finally called us back and told us what they needed I had the application, fingerprinting, driving records, and all physicals, including the dog, done within 1 week.  The only thing left we had to do was the 27 hours of training and our home study.  I opted to get the training done as quickly as possible, so instead of one class every week for 9 weeks, I signed us up for an accelerated class that met twice a week for 5 weeks.  DURING ADVENT!  That's right people, I was determined.

We sat down and talked to our boys before we even started the classes.  We wanted to make sure they understood what was going on.  Two out of the three were very excited about idea of having more kids in our house.  Can you guess which one wasn't thrilled?   I knew he would come around. Gus just isn't a big fan of change.

Hans and I finished our classes before Christmas.  Then the waiting began.  Every day John would ask us when we were going to get kids.  He was anxious, we were all anxious.  We waited and waited and waited some more.  After several messages and emails left for our licensing worker we found out in May that the agency had lost all of our paperwork.  We were going to have to start over.  Needless to say, Hans and I were devastated.  We opted to go with another agency.  After submitting our application again and doing another home study we FINALLY got our license in the mail on Sept 6th.  The funny thing is that we already had a kid placed in our home two days prior!

Since getting our license we've had two kids placed with us, a 5 year old boy and then a 3 year old girl.  Neither one of them are with us anymore.  One moved on to another home, and one actually got to go home!  I have learned an enormous amount about DCFS and the system in the last 4 months.  I've worked with doctors, teachers and various school officials, lawyers, case workers, investigators, guardian ad litems, judges, and parents.  At the end of the day I'm still not sure how I feel about this whole program.  I've questioned whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution by fostering kids.  The system is, without a doubt, dysfunctional.  I do not know everything and I don't have all the answers.  For now, Hans and I will continue to foster because at the end of the day scared children are being pulled from their homes.  From everything they know and love.  Whether the reasons for being removed are just or unjust, there is still a child who needs a safe, loving place to go, just as that child needs a person outspoken enough to stand up with, or in some cases against, the doctors, school officials, lawyers, case workers and judges.  My three boys have taught me how to deal with irrational people very well.

All three boys are now on board with the whole fostering thing.  And now, as we wait for another call, all three ask me every day when we will get another kid. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

While I Was in Paris

My mom introduced the boys to water beads.  The boys loved them! 
Water beads starts off as little pellets and when submerged in water they grow.  John had a good time watching them grow by making water dots on paper each hour.

Look at those eyes.
Okay, back to the beads.

The beads come in all different colors.  You can buy them at almost any craft store.  They come in the dried pellet form and in jars with them already about this size.

The cool thing is that if these beads are left out to dry they will go back to in the little tiny pellet forms.
My mom told the boys they could play with them however they wanted.  Apparently this is what Anders thinks is cool.

Gus made a camera and wanted my mom to take a picture of him taking a picture. 

My mom started a book that we still need to finish.  I thank my mother every time I pick up that darn thing.  It is an incredibly boring book.  But somehow this book managed to win a Newberry.  Gus picked this book because it is about a dog.  Go figure.  And because it is about a dog this kid needs to finish it.  I've never been so determine to teach this kid to read to himself.

The boys also enjoyed building puzzles with my dad.  This is actually 3 puzzles in 1.

Grandma lets them eat in the living room.  Grandma is so cool.

The Fiene boys couldn't be in Texas without visiting the Blaschkes. They had fun swimming.

The boys also had fun hanging out with Uncle Mark.  Gus is like Mark's mini-me so I love when they get to see each other.  Mark and Gus "get" each other.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My Travels Abroad: Paris-Day Two

Our first stop in Paris the next day was the Eiffel Tower.
See all these people taking pictures in front the tower?  They were smart.  This is the best place to take pictures in front of the tower.  It was drizzling and Hans and I didn't want to get off of the bus. I got off for two seconds to snap this photo.  We regretted this later when we tried to get a picture in front of the tower from a different place.

Then we stopped at the Dome les Invalides.  This was the Royal chapel, directly connected to the Church of Saint-Louis.  The dome house the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

From the dome we made our way to Notre Dame

This is Stacy.  Stacy and I are a lot alike.  She was also on the youth part of the trip with Hans and got to know him well.  Stacy and I had a good time making fun of Hans the second half of the trip. It was truly a bonding experience.

There were a ton of people "modeling" in front of the cathedral.  Stacy decided to give it a try.

Hans decided he should model too.  
Actually, the ONLY reason I'm posting this picture is to tell you all that while I was going through picture from our trip Anders kept telling me that daddy looked like a "pretty, pretty, princess" in this picture. Must be the poncho.  Hans immediately threw the poncho away.

We stood in a fairly long line to get into the cathedral.  This was the only picture I took inside.  I was thoroughly distracted by the fact that they were holding mass in the center while a ton of people were just walking around.  I felt pretty icky about the whole thing and Hans and I skedaddled out of there pretty quickly.  It was beautiful in there.  But I believe the church should have the right to close while having services.

The weather was drizzling on and off that morning.  After we came out of the cathedral it started to pour.  So a group of us ate at a little cafe to wait out the rain.

My hunky hubby.

Hans and I would like to come back for our 15th anniversary and stay in one of these little apartments for the week.  I can dream, can't I?