Outing Day…Number Two

A year and a half ago (!), Josiah and Hayden went on a trip with our youth group. On the way there, they passed by a unique and memorable playground. When we started talking about visiting parks this summer, they insisted that we check it out. So…yesterday…we did.

Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park…aka Dungeons & Dragons Park…aka Castle Park…was fabulous. There were passageways and secret rooms and towers galore. The kids (big and little) played and played and played. For the cost of a picnic lunch (and…a tank of gas…and…ok…ice cream for the ride home), we had a wonderful day. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea…

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A few things if you’re planning to make the trip…. First of all (and this is no big deal unless you happen to have given birth to a couple of germophobes), there are only portapotties. So (if you do have germophobes), you might have to take a little ride to Caseys for a potty break.

Second, the ground cover surrounding the castle is made of recycled tires. Fellow visitors (who said they come every summer) said it gets super-hot come mid-summer, so keep that in mind.

And, finally, this seems to be the height of cicada (or locust or whatever disgusting flying things they were) season. Although I didn’t notice them in the castle itself, they did make picnicking a little interesting. If you have an entomophobe (who may or may not be the same person as your germophobe), a visit right now might be problematic.

All that said, though, make the trip. It was awesome.

Hard-Knock Life

Background Information Item #1: The Fs are obsessed with Annie. Except when they take a break to listen to the Frozen soundtrack, they listen to the music from Annie all the time. The songs are permanently etched into my mind. Fiffer likes to use the words of the songs to make a point…like humming “Hard-Knock Life” when I make her dry the dishes. Charming.

Background Information Item #2: We had a licensing appointment this morning. Usually this is no big deal (except that we have to adjust the temperature of the water), and today’s visit followed true to form…until the very end…when the licensing person told me that “someone” had filed a complaint against us (including one gross untruth and one gross exaggeration) and that they might need to question everyone in the family about it. Ugh.

So…with a good-natured tongue in cheek…but a bitter aftertaste in the back of my throat…I present you…”It’s the Hard-Knock Life.”

It’s the hard-knock life for us/It’s the hard-knock life for us/Stead-a bolstered/We get blamed/Stead-a snuggled/We get shamed/It’s the hard-knock life.

Don’t it feel like the caseworker has no clue?/Don’t it seem like the birth mom hates our guts?/Once a day, don’t you wonder why you do it?/The paperwork alone will drive you nuts.

It’s the hard-knock life for us/It’s the hard-knock life for us/Stead-a bolstered/We get blamed/Stead-a snuggled/We get shamed/It’s the hard-knock life.

No one’s there when your own kids get so weary/No one cares if they grow or if they shrink.

Empty wallet life!/On-the-defense life!/Full of sorrow life!/No tomorrow life!

Respite care we never see/Respite care? What’s that? Beats me!

No one cares for you a bit/When you have a foster kid/It’s the hard-knock life

Don’t it feel like the case will last forever?/Don’t it seem like there’s never any stop?/Once a day, don’t you want all ties to sever?/But then you think you may want to adopt!

It’s the hard-knock life for us/It’s the hard-knock life for us/Stead-a bolstered/We get blamed/Stead-a snuggled/We get shamed/It’s the hard-knock life.

No one cares for you a bit/When you have a foster kid/It’s the hard-knock life

A Day Away (the First of Many)

So…what do you do with children who are intent on destroying your home? You get them out of the house…as much as humanly possible. One plan for this summer is to visit the parks and/or swimming pools in all the neighboring towns…cheap and varied fun.

We started the project this afternoon with a visit to Sullivan.  This might have been a mistake, because Sullivan has an amaza-park…it will be hard to beat. It has a nice blend of new (safer) equipment, as well as older (less safe…and maybe…more fun) items. I took pictures of a few of the more unusual things for comparison purposes.

This appears to be some sort of climbing apparatus, but I couldn’t get any of our kids interested in it…nor did I see anyone else playing on it.

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Here’s Feffer going down the fireman’s pole. Feffer is the most analytical of the little kids, studying each new challenge to figure out how to conquer it. Feff is blissfully happy, but he pretty much sticks to what he knows. Fiffer was there about fifteen minutes before she started whining to go home. “Choose to be happy” is our refrain with her this summer.

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This is part of a little bridge-system, made more exciting by the fact that half of the little stations are broken in some way. Fiffer’s (as you can see) is no longer chained to the ground, which makes it much more fun.

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I think the point of this mountain-climbing piece is to go around the outside of it (see the places to put your feet?), but Feffer tried the up-and-over approach first.

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While the Fs were all simultaneously calling me to watch them, this little dude started yelling, “Kris! Kris!” so that I would watch him too. Before long, his brother took up the cry. Fiffer looked at me and asked in bewilderment, “How do they know your name?” I wonder.

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Back to the mountain. For a change, Fiffer took the lead.

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These were incredible…and hard! As if regular monkey bars weren’t tricky enough, these actually spin when you grab onto them, making for an amazing arm workout. Feffer was up to the challenge, though.

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I missed the photo op, but Fiffer spent a little bit of time pouting on this cactus.

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Look at the pitch of that climbing wall! And the lack of soft landing material! Feffer was in heaven.

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And speaking of pitch, check out this old-style slide! We might have to change the name of the park from “Wyman Park” to “Break-a-Bone Park” before the summer’s over.

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This is a cool idea, but it was pretty hard to push. We’ll have to take Si with us next time and see if he can get them moving a little faster.

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We finally gave in to Fiffer’s whining and decided to leave, but then (as we were driving around the one-way loop to exit the park) we saw this…

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which led to this…

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which led to this…

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which led to this. So, so fun.

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On the way home, we stopped at the beach…just to wade…ha! The water was frigid, and these people get fussy when the hot water runs low during bath time, so I didn’t think there would be a problem. Rookie mistake. They rode home (35 minutes) soaking wet and towel-less. IMG_4298

Oh, well. After snacks and baths, they went right to sleep.

Check mark for Sunday.

Catching Up

Friday, I spent two delightful hours just visiting…with two friends from college days and two new friends (a pastor and his wife) that I met that day. Yes, there were children present (seven, as a matter of fact), but since none of them were my responsibility, it was a wonderful break for me.

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The reason for the get-together was that Kristi (a friend from college) and her family were in town for a couple of hours, traveling through on a big family road trip. They live in Nebraska (but too far from Seward for me to visit them on my biannual pilgrimage out there), and it had been years since I had seen her in person, although I follow her blog, so I wasn’t completely unaware of all God has been doing in her life.

Kristi’s family’s story makes me smile. She and her husband had one beautiful daughter. Nine years later (after a seven-year wait), they travelled to China to bring home their second child: an adorable eighteen-month-old girl. Two months later, they travelled to another city in Nebraska to bring home their third child: a newborn boy. My friend went from a (well-rested) mother of one to an (exhausted) mother of three. Go, God!

Two years later, their older daughter is a talented, poised young lady. And their two little people are running around, chattering up a storm and egging each other on (the little guy recently gave his sister a nice little haircut). So fun to read about, but even more fun to see in person.

Last Day of School

Wednesday was the little kids’ last half-day of school. Hayden spent the morning at Fiffer’s school, entertaining all the first and second-graders. She did four 30 minute shows…that’s a lot of juggling! I love watching her perform. She’s so casual and funny with the kids, carrying on little conversations with individual kids…while she keeps juggling.

Here she’s trying to choose volunteers (a hard job)…

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Juggling (and pretending to almost drop the balls) while the kids count to 100…

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The soccer balls are always a hit (especially when she bounces one of them off her head or her knee)…

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The devil sticks are always popular too (although they’re going so fast, you can barely see them in this picture)…

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And…for the grand finale…can she juggle while balancing on the balance board and balancing a bowl of water on her head (like the Cat in the Hat)? Such fun.

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I had to leave the juggling a little early to go watch Feff graduate from Head Start. He’s such a loving little guy! When I got there, he practically climbed on my head in his excitement to see me. When we left, he hugged one of his teacher’s aides goodbye and told her, “I love you so much,” which made her burst into tears…such a sweet boy.

Here he is, sitting right by Miss Tara.

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When you graduate preschool, you get a ring pop and a bottle of bubbles along with your diploma…score!

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Such a big smile!

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What a fun day! Let the summer begin!

Fiffer

I can be a very stubborn determined person. Although there are certainly things that I try and give up on, sometimes I get something in my head and I refuse to give it up, no matter how ugly things get. So it is with Fiffer. I love the kid. I do. If we had been presented with a list of her behaviors before she came into our home, we would have never taken her. Never. Not only is day-to-day life with her pretty rough, but her future looks downright scary. An adolescence filled with sexual promiscuity, an eating disorder, a gift for stealing and deceiving, a seeming lack of a conscience? No, thank you.

But there’s more to her than all of that. There is. She’s smart and funny, and she soaks up attention and new information in a truly delightful way. She’s doing great in school, and she’s excited to be home for the summer. She loves board games and singing and helping in the kitchen. She is looking forward to the softball season, and she loves when I read a chapter book to her after the little boys’ storybooks. And…we keep telling ourselves…if her behaviors are related to the hurts she has already suffered in this world…surely she will heal…surely we can help her heal…right? Right.

But things just keep getting worse. This past week, she’s torn up some of Dillon’s artwork, stolen from Josiah’s stash of graduation gifts, spray-painted some profanities on the side of the house, smuggled ice cream up to her room to eat later and then ate so much she vomited in the night, taken a spotlight out of the garage (one that we use in our Christmas decorating) and smashed it to smithereens in the driveway. And the craziest thing about all of this is that we watch her all the time. But the kid is like a phantom with her deceitfulness. When she’s playing outside and we’re guarding the garage, she jimmies open the sunroom door and comes into the house to steal and destroy. When we barricade the sunroom door but get called away from garage-guarding duty to help one of the little boys, she slips into the garage to steal and destroy. When (after she’s thrown up in the night), I leave her bedroom door un-alarmed so that I can hear her if she gets sick again, she…wait for it…slips out of her room (after the shakiness of vomiting has passed) to steal and destroy. It’s exhausting.

But we pull her closer. And we find things to keep her mind and hands busy. And we get through the days. And Sunday morning at church, I keep her right beside me. And I tell her to put her coloring book down and follow along with the service, since she’s getting to be such a big reader. And we share a bulletin, I put my arm around her, I lavish her with sincere praise, and she lights up with pride in herself. And she does such a good job. And my heart swells because there’s hope…here’s a ray of hope.

And then the service ends, and I find out from those sitting around us, that when my head was bowed in prayer or my eyes focussed on the altar…she was flipping me off behind my back. Flipping me off. In church. And it takes me the whole drive home to get over feeling like I’m going to throw up…or cry…or scream.

So. There’s a big pow-wow scheduled for this Thursday…a meeting to decide if Fiffer needs more specialized care…and…if she does…if we are the ones to provide it for her. People keep telling us that we have to do what’s best for us too…that we have to make decisions for the good of the whole family…but that’s a wavy, grey line that’s hard to put our fingers on right now. Pray, please. Pray for wisdom and peace and strength.

Catching Up

One thing Quincy has missed while she’s away at college is getting acquainted with her niece.

So…on Sundays…when Zach and Raven come over…IMG_4227

Quincy turns into a baby hog.

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No worries, though. Sophia seems fine with it.