Our Life Together

The beginning…

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This is the first steps in our parenting journey.

It was the year 2000
We couldn’t get pregnant.  I needed pills and pills and tests and tests, and the whole time I kept saying, “we can adopt… I want to adopt too, so we could just do that now instead of waiting…”  Ron was in agreement, but he was also busy moving us.  We had a new assignment at a new church and we were moving back down closer to our hometowns and our parents.  We decided to wait until we were settled in the new house and then begin the process of adoption. (We were so naive about how all of that would work).

Year 2003
We move back near home and get settled into our new house.  I start to notice that I feel weird and that I’m cranky… well, more cranky than normal 🙂  I’m actually being super moody and freaking out for no real reason.  My mother suggests that I take a pregnancy test… I guess she’s had enough of my attitude. Ron was gone to camp to be a counselor during this time, so it’s good that he wasn’t around me during this time.

I bought a test but decided to wait until he came home from camp so he could be there when I took the test.  It was positive!! I was so excited.  We were busy getting everything ready for the baby, and then busy taking care of the baby.  That first year Ron graduated seminary and entered the Air Force as a reservist.  He was technically an IMA Chaplain, but that’s not what this post is about.  So let’s just say he continued to preach for the UM Church and do his regular monthly reserve duty at Little Rock Air Base.  I kept assuming we would adopt, but we would start it all when the baby was a little older.

Year 2005
Once again… I started taking all the pills… and running all the tests… this time we added in a fertility monitor someone sold us and bought our first pack of testing sticks… y’all… those things are expensive!!

Year 2006
One month using the fertility monitor and it told me exactly when I ovulated… I got pregnant.  This was 2 years after Price was born, so don’t think this happened right away.

Another baby on the way, getting everything ready for that, and Ron telling me he wants to go into the Air Force on active duty… meaning, full-time.  I was completely good with following him wherever he thought God was leading, so we started getting all of that ready and all of that training done.

We had the second baby, Wesley, and I settled in as best as I could with being a stay-at-home-mom with two kiddos, and Ron was still preaching and doing his reserve duties.

Year 2007
When Wesley was only 2 months old or so, we found out our first assignment with the Air Force on active duty… Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

We’ll start the next part at Peterson…  July 2007…

Learner – Not Teacher

Making decisions isn’t easy…

Raise your hand if you know what unschooling is!  First of all, I’ve violated one of the very few rules of unschooling by adding a “school” thing to the first sentence.  Raising your hand is something we learn in school.  Have you ever raised your hand as an adult and waited to be called on for anything?  I just thought about this now… we don’t stand in Starbucks and raise our hand to be called on.  We don’t sit even in lectures and wait to be called on by raising our hands… usually there are microphones placed around the auditorium and we are asked to walk to the microphone and wait our turn.  I guess there are certain places you might raise your hand as an adult… like a magic show (if you want to be the assistant), or maybe if Jimmy Fallon is walking through the audience and you REALLY want to talk to him and be on The Tonight Show… but in most normal circumstances we don’t raise our hands to be called on.

That has nothing to do with what this post is about… 🙂  But I ramble sometimes… it can’t be helped!!

I homeschool my children.  I want to say I’ve done it since Price (my oldest) was 4 and we started doing “school” at home.  However, with some of the research and reading I’ve been doing, I’d rather say my children have learned at home since birth.  All children are taught at home for the first 4-5 years of their lives.  They learn how to walk, talk, and go to the bathroom on the toilet (some learn this easier and earlier than others).  And that kind of brings me to the point of this, I think.

We are now telling parents that they should let their children potty train when the child is ready.  We are acknowledging that there isn’t one set age where everyone should be able to go to the bathroom.  One of my children was later than I thought was normal for the potty training and I decided to just stop pushing it… my motto became (He will eventually do it… he won’t still be diapers when ______)  I usually filled that blank in with “he gets married”  or “he goes to college”… I just stepped back and stopped pushing… and he did do it… mostly on his own, and moreover, when he finally did start using the pot, he never had that period of not being able to hold it overnight.  He just did it, and almost completely on his own.  This is the same child who taught himself to read by the time he was 4, just by listening to the rest of us read aloud and watching hours of Letter Factory videos! 🙂

The reading thing again… okay.  I brought up the potty training thing to say that I think it’s the same way with the reading thing.  Kids will learn to read when their minds are ready.  To say that every 5 year old in Kindergarten SHOULD be able to read these certain words by Christmas break, or that they will be reading certain short books by the end of their Kindergarten year sets some children up to be failures from the very beginning.  Imagine that you are one of these kids whose brain needs a little more time to catch up.  I don’t mean that there is a learning disability, although… I think some of those things we label as learning disabilities might just mean that they can’t learn the way they are being taught… not that they can’t learn at all.  I’m not saying there aren’t actual disabilities that keep people from being able to learn, I’m just saying if we offered more than “one way to learn” that we wouldn’t lose so many kids right from the beginning.

As a teacher (when I taught public school) I could tell almost immediately the children whose parents worked with them at home and had probably been reading to them when they were small children, and the kids whose parents used school as a babysitter because they had to work or just didn’t want to be around their children all day.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll have to do another post later to expound on these things more.  The point of this post was for me to explore unschooling.  I would like to say that we are “trying it out”!  But in order for unschooling to work, it kind of has to be an all-or-nothing concept.  So I will say that we are now using a child-led learning style that looks nothing like school and looks a lot like watching Ghostbusters a million times to see if we can see any of the people working the animatronics in Slimer.  And to see which camera angle they used to make the marshmallow man look so much taller than anything else.  It also means we have a “Wonder Wall” in our kitchen that everyone (almost everyone) 🙂  has written something they wonder up there… It means we wake up each day not really knowing what we’re going to do or what we want to do and end up having a great adventure laughing about some crazy thing we watched on youtube or some new book we finished… The 11-yr old ran in this morning and announced he finished the first Harry Potter book and wants to know who wants it next (we’re all reading through each book before we watch the movies)… When the possibilities for learning are nearly endless, there is a period of sitting around trying to get your mind around what you want to do, but when we’re all learning together and working together even the periods of sitting around are much more fun!!

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

 

Foster Children

Our first Christmas as foster parents…

I wrote this while we were living in Turkey… we moved there from Colorado Springs and I was missing our foster kids.  I’m going to write about that experience as we go along, but here is a glimpse into what it was like with our first foster child.

Our “Extra” Child Christmas

It had been a crazy, chaotic, but wonderful six months in the Feeser house in Colorado Springs, CO. We had completed our foster parenting paperwork in June, and got a call the very next week about a boy. He was already at the DHS (Department of Human Services) office, and they wanted me to come get him. I loaded up my own boys, Price(4) and Wesley(1), and we drove over. When I first saw him I fell in love. He had straight, blonde hair that stuck out from his head in all directions, scared and confused blue eyes, and the cutest little nose that I can still see three years later when I close my eyes. He was holding a backpack bigger than his nearly three year old body, and holding a blanket that the DHS worker had given him. My kids were so excited that a new boy was coming to our house, and we soon had him loaded in a car seat and on our way. They played all afternoon together and I had dreams of how easy and great this would all be.

Of course, the “newness” wore off, and he began to act like the little boy he was. A sweet little boy who had been neglected for most of his three years. He wanted to be loved by anyone who would, and in turn, he loved everyone he saw. He was always shy and apprehensive at first, but after just a few minutes he would feel comfortable and come out hugging everyone.

We had more foster children come and go during those first six months with *Ethan, but when Christmas came, it was just him. We had already decided to just make him as much a part of the family as possible, so he participated in everything we did, and we loved him just like our own. We also knew that the time was drawing closer and closer that he would be taken from us and sent to live forever with his grandmother in another state. I tried to make everything about that Christmas as special as possible, and I tried to sear the memory of everything we did in my mind so I would never forget it. I always take pictures anyway, just of everyday things (even random butterflies and sunsets), so I have many pictures to look back on that time and remember.

We didn’t do anything that year that we wouldn’t normally do, but there was still something more special about it all. We tried not to buy him more things just because he was leaving us soon. We tried not to let him get away with bad behaviors just because he wasn’t going to be around next Christmas.

Christmas morning was a special time that I will never forget. He came into the living room and saw the tree with all the gifts around it. He just stopped and stared. Price, our oldest son, who knew what this was all about, ran straight to the tree and started asking which pile was his. But Ethan just stood there and looked. He had never gotten anything from Santa that he could remember, and wasn’t sure that anything was for him. I went over to the tree with Wesley (who had just turned two) and led Ethan to his pile of toys and clothes from Santa. His face lit up when he realized it was for him, and he never stopped smiling as he and the other boys played with everything they had gotten.

Just two weeks later, I packed up all those toys and clothes and everything else he’d gotten in the six months he was with us, and I loaded him up on an airplane with his grandmother to move away from us forever. He hasn’t been with us physically for a Christmas in three years, but those sweet blue eyes and spiky blond hair are in my memories every Christmas morning.

*his name has been changed for protection purposes.

  • It’s been 7 years now since he left us, and his picture hangs in the hall with the rest of them.  I know when his birthday is still and I think about him more than I thought I would.  I think of them all… can tell you all of their names and birthdays.  Tell you what I loved most about each of them and what drove me craziest! 🙂  They are mine… at least part of them is… and part of me will always be theirs…

 

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Sunday Sermon Recap

Take Time by Turning Off…

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

The sermon this week was all about turning off our electronics and focusing on people face-to-face…

Going into the hospital scared me.  I was just minding my business… shopping for Christmas gifts (we were almost done… just a couple more things for the kids)… then BAM!  I’m having emergency surgery to remove a baby I didn’t even know I had been carrying.  I’m being transferred to a hospital while unconscious, waking up to find out I had no idea what was going on and no way of talking to the people around me… I was scared.

I came home almost a week later and I was different.  Things looked different.  The closer I got to my house and my children, the more I cried.  I had been a weepy mess since it started, so I knew that wasn’t changing much, but that wasn’t the only thing different.  I laid in bed that night (pretending to try to sleep), and just listening to my kids laughing.  I let their little laughs put me to sleep that night.  And I realized I had been taking them for granted.

That’s not something I ever thought would happen.  I mean, I worked HARD for those babies.  I suffered through awful things to get pregnant with them and give birth to them.  I was one of the lucky ones… fertility treatments worked for me… and I had been giving my kids the left-overs.  I was always just a little too late when one would say “Momma look at this!”  Because whatever I was doing was too important to look away from a second sooner.  “You missed it… that’s okay!”  They are so forgiving… even when I fail them time and again.

Not anymore… I still do the things I did before (crocheting… listening to podcasts and audio books… reading actual paper books or books on my kindle), but I try to look the FIRST time… “Momma look!”  And I do…

The distractions around us might not be the same ones that Paul was talking about when he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, but they had distractions also that kept them from the same things that ours keep us from… we don’t use our gifts because we are too busy being distracted.

No one is saying to stop using technology… we couldn’t function, right!?!  BUT we can definitely use it less… “Take Time by Turning Off”… that’s my new motto…

If I am engaged in something that I don’t want to be interrupted while doing (that really is only my bible reading in the mornings), then I tell them ahead of time that I’m putting headphones in to listen to music while I read and reflect… please don’t interrupt.  They are old enough to take care of themselves, so they leave me alone for that time.  Any other time, I try to be available to them.  I just do… no excuses… none…

They’re only going to be in my house for a very short period of time… I want to actively enjoy the crap out of them while they are here… and I am!!

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Who am I?? – Mother

I am a mother… to many…

*I have been a mother to 13 different children… Read on!!

Being a mother has been my dream since I was a little kid.  I was a tomboy, for sure, growing up.  My only sibling, a brother, is 6 years older than me and I followed him around everywhere.  I wanted to do anything he did, and firmly believed I could do anything too.  He put up with me for the most part, but definitely got tired of his little sister following him around… I’m sure there will be more stories involving him as we go along with this thing, but this one is about being a mother.

When I wasn’t following after my brother and his friends and playing whatever sport they would let me join in on, I was carrying around a baby doll.  I didn’t have many barbies, because I didn’t like them.  I didn’t want to play with an adult doll… or even a teenager… I wanted the babies.  I had a cabbage patch kid (as did every child in the 80’s), but my favorite was a doll called a “Real Baby”.  I tried to search for this to show you what it looked like or even see if they still make them, and I couldn’t find anything about my baby.  What I did find was baby dolls that look so real it was scary.  So… just picture a doll that looked like about a 3 month old baby.  I had a boy, of course, because I didn’t want baby girls.  Anyway, I carried this baby with me everywhere.  I’m sure I threw him down somewhere when it was time to play sports of some kind, but mostly I took great care of him.  I even named him AJ (Andrew Joshua)… The story behind the name may be revealed in a story one day too!

When Ron and I got married, many years after AJ had gone away, we both had some pretty cemented thoughts about children.  I wanted to have 4, he wanted 2.  That was the only thing we disagreed about.  He wanted them to be able to do whatever they wanted with their hair because “it might not be there long” (his hair started falling out when he was 16.. this was particularly devastating to his hair-band-loving self).  I didn’t have an opinion about hair, so that one was okay (I was just praying their hair wouldn’t be as kinky, curly as mine).  I wanted to adopt children.  I didn’t care where we adopted them from, but I knew I wanted to adopt.  He didn’t seem to have an opinion about this at all.

We were married in July of 1999, and in May of that year I had gone to the gynecologist for the first time and gotten on birth control pills.  (We wanted to wait at least a year before having a baby, but not really any longer than a year).

I took those pills for exactly one year, and then I stopped.  I assumed that I would just get pregnant.  I didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t happen.  That my dream might not happen just as I had planned it.  We were living in a parsonage with 3 bedrooms, a huge formal living and dining room, and it was just too much room for us.  I wanted to fill those rooms with babies.  Instead, it was just us… the whole time.

In 2003, after fertility treatments, I got pregnant the first time.  Our son was born March 15, 2004.  We decided since we had so much trouble the first time, we wouldn’t worry with birth control and I’d probably just get pregnant again soon.

In 2006, after more fertility treatments, I got pregnant again.  Our second son was born on November 28, 2006.  That was the end of the fertility treatments for me.

I decided that I was done with all of the mess that went along with those things.  Infertility posts will definitely be coming because that defined the first years of our marriage, and even longer in my heart.

We became foster parents and have fostered 8 children.  I know each of their birthdays and have a tiny celebration inside each time one of them rolls around, but I only get to see pictures of 3 of them.  We would’ve adopted every one of them, but that’s not exactly the way the system works, so they all ended up somewhere else.  Not with me physically, but with me in every other way.

In 2015, we finally got our girl! 🙂  We didn’t adopt her, but we do have custody of her, so I claim her every chance I get.  She was 16 when she came to live with us, and we had known her since birth, so it wasn’t as hard as if we had taken someone from foster care whom we’d never met.  Not that this isn’t still one of our goals, but I know it’ll be different from what this is.

In 2015, I got pregnant again.  This time I didn’t even know it.  My body, at least the reproductive parts of it, had been messed up for so long at this point that I just thought maybe I was going through menapause early.  I had just turned 38, so maybe I was just early.  I didn’t take a pregnancy test because I didn’t think I was pregnant, and after so many years of taking test after test, month after month and really feeling like I was pregnant, and test after test, month after month seeing a negative test wasn’t something I wanted to repeat again.  So, I just didn’t do it.

When I was 12 weeks pregnant, the baby died.  No one knows why, and no one even knows exactly when.  On November 28, 2015, I started to bleed.  I was in a store (near the hospital, thankfully) and blood just started running down my legs.  I knew something was wrong, but there was no pain.  My first thought was miscarriage, but I didn’t think that could be true because I didn’t think it was possible for me to even be pregnant.

The baby died months before my body decided it needed to get it out.  The doctor thinks that the baby was dead for two months before my body let me know.  It’s rare, but it does happen that the body just hangs on.  I have the ultrasound picture of my third baby, but that’s it.  Not with me physically again… and not even a mental picture to go with a birth day.  I could figure out about when the baby would’ve been born (at least around the month), but I’m not sure I can handle it right now.  It’s been 6 weeks and I’ve not even begun to know how I feel about it.  On one hand, it seems like madness to miss something I didn’t even know I had.  On the other hand, I feel like I’ve missed something wonderful and magnificent by not knowing this baby.  There are a million what-ifs, but none of them really matter.  Nothing brings that baby back, and nothing gives me more than an ultrasound photo.  We just keep walking forward… that’s what this is about… my journey forward!

and still I say….
Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda