Emerald Isle 2011

We just recently returned from a vacation at Emerald Isle, NC.  We met up with three other families that we retreated with last year this time.  To say we enjoyed ourselves would be the understatement of the year.  I hope and pray this will continue to be annual getaway for many years to come.

We had to leave our sweet foster kiddos with respite providers as they had to remain in town for their weekly visitation with their birth mother.  Leaving them and our puppy, Jasper, was not easy, but we knew we needed this time away as a family.

There were eighteen of us.  Two mamas are expecting (not me), so there should be more to add to the mix when we meet again.  There ten kids ranging from eleven down to two.  There was never a dull moment; lots of play and laughter, beach fun, good food, great music, and just sharing lots of life within those moments together.

The weather was gorgeous.  I don’t believe the sky could have been any bluer.  The beach was so long, wide and inviting.  There were pelicans and dolphins diving in the water, sea gulls to feed and watch, shells and sea life to identify, collect, and/or admire.  The wonder never ceased.  So many memories were made.

Madelyn with Arianna in front of the beach house.

I love this photo.  These kids were sitting and cheering on their dads as they took to the cold surf.  You should have heard them when they saw their dads take a wave in on their boogie boards.  On this particular day, actually the only one, it was very windy.  The waves were fierce.  🙂

Daniel seems to attract children.  Whenever I spend time with him and his family, the kids just flock to him.  He loves to field their questions and just play with them.  Here he is with a bunch of them in front of the ocean just talking.

Here’s our Julian.  Couldn’t be happier. This child loves the sea and loves to dig in the sand.

Sweet Madelyn getting down and dirty digging a hole with her buddies.

Here’s Scott, Dan and Daniel covering up a few kids in the sand.

Julian and Ellen try a hand at the game of horse shoes.

Brady enjoying a little snack on the beach close to Mom.

Kalen is a hard worker, even on vacation you’ll find him searching for things and working on something.  I love watching this guy at the beach.

This is not a great picture, but you can get a glimpse of the cute mouths that were needing to be fed before heading to the beach.

Maddie and Kalen getting buried in the sand.  They found this to be both fun and warm.

What a gorgeous picture of friendship.  This is Ellen and Julian testing the water with their toes.

Kalen shares a sea treasure with Daniel (again, always interested).

Maddie is holding Sylvia in this photo.  Sylvie was such a delightful little playmate for all of us to enjoy.  We are so thankful for her.

Madelyn stayed in this spot admiring and feeding the sea gulls for what seemed like hours.  Her stillness was so inviting to the birds.  Tears came to my eyes as I watched my daughter delight in this unique opportunity.

Scott and Jason pulled the boys for a fun ride in the tide.

This is a precious picture for many reasons.  A couple of those reasons are that Brayden and Sylvie are great friends.  They are close in age and make quite a duo.  Here you see them sitting with their sides seeming to be glued together.  Also, you’ll see Sylvie in this picture holding something out.  Yes, well, some of the kids found a bat on the beach and picked it up with a shovel.  Well, the bat was whole and quite magnificent lying limp fully intact on the shovel.  So, Sylvie was taking a turn with this little creature, admiring it I am sure.  Yes, the little guy was dead.  But, to the kids, it was still worth admiring.  If you refer to our previous trip together (Surf City), you’ll see some dead fish in my boys’ hands.  Yep, kids will be kids.  Nature is a wonder.

These two Bulluck boys were a hoot.  Here you see Alder and Heath jamming on the beach to a Dan Zanes tune.

Sylvie, Julian and Brayden watching the dolphins.

Sweet Sylvie.

Arianna and Jen

Janet and Sylvie checking out a jellyfish.

Julian found this beautiful Calico Crab shell.

Scott being playful with Madelyn.

Me and Scott

Brady

Julian

Our beautiful friend, Ellen.

Joren ( the little blondie at the top) making us all crack up.  He was being a funny guy and the girls were just giggling up a storm.  Of course, he loved that.

Mr. Horse shoes, I mean … Scott enjoys this game so much.  This can be added to the list of all the things that he is good at.  He got to play several games with his buds.

Here’s Jason with the kids trying to identify something they found. Oh wait, I think this was still the bat.  Hee hee.

Simple Things

Julian and I took our foster kids and Jasper out after lunch today.

The sun was shining bright. Julian began playing with the two little ones on the trampoline. Jasper was running around wild and free in our fenced in backyard.

I sat on one our kiddie slides, took a deep breath in and looked up into the October blue sky above me. Just as I was noticing how incredibly blue the sky was, a beautiful orange Monarch butterfly flew above me. I could only see it and the blue sky above it. It fluttered so slowly. I smiled. A thought emerged. Taking time to enjoy the simple things can be so delightful and life giving.

Thanks, God, for the little things. May I breathe deeply today and smile easily.

Snapshots

Here are a few pictures of the kids over their school break.  School starts back on Monday.  It has been a long three-week break with lots of time at home, on the soccer fields, fun with neighbors and Jasper (our new puppy), time at Grandma’s house, and such.

Brayden gets a leg in this soccer play.  He is the second orange player from the left.

Just before digging into some delicious vegan (yes, VEGAN) cupcakes.

 

Madelyn and Brayden created this afternoon tea time that was just adorable in every way.

Madelyn with her Daddy at the soccer fields


One of our boys favorite pastimes is playing Beyblades together.  Beyblades are basically spinning tops.  The cool thing is that you can change and trade the actual pieces that they are made out of.  Just recently Julian even set up a tournament at our local library.

Messiness

I told myself it would be messy.  With wide-eyed abandon, I leapt towards fostering.  Step by step into the process I was hoping to save a child, make a difference, and be like Jesus.

I was tired of being comfortable.  I wanted to push my sleeves up and get to work.

I got my entire family on board, convincing them that this would be challenging but wonderful.  Everyone climbed aboard and we were off.

Well, here we are.  Up to our elbows…

Eight months into this foster placement and we are indeed seeing the messiness that life can bring.

Yes, our foster children are absolutely adorable.  With their big brown eyes, milk chocolate skin, tiny little fingers and toes, and infectious laughter, they’ve won all our hearts from the very start.

As they learned to call us all by name, we began to see them let their guard down.

Great rewards have come from investing into the lives of these children.  We’ve seen growth and grace in our family as we have totally immersed ourselves into their needs.  On a good day, I see the beauty and the growth.

On the hard days, I see the mess.  When I say mess, I am referring to the literal messiness in our home as evidence of so much life.  See the picture up above?  That was taken just after our little one-year-old foster girl threw the paint container on the floor.

But with messiness, I am also referring to the feelings and interactions that can come from caring for children that are not my own, but treating them as if they are.  Messy can also describe the attitudes and hearts of these kids that are so restless.  As a result of our foster children’s previous history, there can be unnecessary meltdowns, lack of communication and, again, restlessness.

For me, as a mom trying to juggle all the hearts that I aim to hold, I sometimes fumble and maybe miss an opportunity to love or extend grace.  Guilt can roll in and make quite a mess of my emotions.

Also, dealing with the Department of Social Services can be messy.  That’s another story.

I am holding on today to the hope that regardless of the mess we are doing the best we can.

Today, I (we) loved.

Was it hard?  Sometimes.

Was my attitude always perfect?  No.

Was I focusing on today?  Today I was.

It is easy for me to get stressed out and over-anxious.  What ifs and worry can set in and wreak havoc on my heart, mind, and emotions.

This is one thing I have learned in this fostering/parenting journey: embrace the messiness.

Just do it one day at a time.

Gorgeous Web

I was taking Jasper out the other night and about walked straight into this huge web and spider.  I gasped, jumped back and counted my blessings.  Then, of course I ran for the camera and grabbed every family member within sight to come see it.

I have a soft spot for beautiful webs that stems from reading each of my kids the book Charlotte’s Web.

I was thankful to have not gotten caught up in this masterpiece and I am still thinking about the wonder of it.