Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy 5th Birthday Luther!

Five years ago, this bundle of joy came into the world. We still haven't recovered. Happy birthday to the most wonderful boy in the world! We love you to the moon and back! #instaluther #happybirthday #fiveyearold #childhood Luther's space cake is done. I was up until 3am, but it's done. Let the festivities begin! #wheresthecoffee #happybirthday #instaluther Hey there NASA. He's coming for you. #happybirthday #instaluther #nasa #fiveyearold #astronaut #shuttle #usa Untitled

Our sweet Luther boy turned the big number five a few weeks ago. For this milestone, we let him invite a bunch of friends and all his preschool classmates over to the house for a space themed party. Piercen and I made him a planetary space cake, and we built a space shuttle out of cardboard boxes for the kids to play in. Luther received a new astronaut suit from Aunt Dewey, lots of legos from grandparents, and his first real bicycle from us.

The weather was perfect, and I don't think we've ever had so many people over at our little house. It was great. Happy birthday dearest Luther, you are our moon and stars! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Foster Care: MAPP Training

We so official! MAPP training ✔️#fostercare #mapp #fosterparents
Officially trained!

For our first steps towards foster care parenting, see here

So we had our in-home meeting with the social working over two months ago, and we just finished up our MAPP (Massachusetts Approaches to Partnerships in Parenting) training, a requirement for all parents hoping to foster/foster-adopt in the state. Normally, it's a three-hour, one night a week, for ten weeks course, but we did the condensed weekend version of four Saturdays, 9:30am-4:30pm. Friends from church and Piercen's work graciously stepped up to watch the kids for us, so we didn't have to hire a babysitter. We are very lucky in our friends. Training took place in Lawrence, MA which is a good 30-45 minutes away, but that was kinda nice as it gave us time to discuss our thoughts and feelings without having little ears around.

So, training.  After the first Saturday, I thought it was going just a waste of time. We had some basic discussions about what it means to go into foster care; things most people would have already thought about. However, my opinion has changed with the subsequent Saturdays. We've talked a lot about permanency and the disruption of permanency, how being taken into care can affect a child,  the perspectives of birth parents, foster parents, social workers, and the children when DCF (Department of Children and Families) becomes involved with a family. I've come to understand the importance of maintaining connections between the children in care and birth family members, how a child's experiences can affect their growth and behavior, and how having a new child in our home might affect our family.

I had to check some of my beliefs and assumptions at the door. I kinda just thought that a child taken into care would be relieved to be away from the abuse/neglect they were experiencing at home. However, in their view, being taken away from the only home and family they have ever known is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to them.

I have a newfound respect for social workers, for the almost impossible job they have, and how they maintain an attitude of respect and care for the children and the families involved. The workers who ran our training were upbeat and optimistic, but also realistic and honest.

A couple of nights ago, as I lay awake in bed, I started to panic. How is caring for a foster child going to change our lives? Is it going to ruin them? As the main child care giver in our family, is adding another, very young child going to be an unmanageable amount of stress for me? Are our own kids going to suffer? Is it going to ruin the near perfect family life we have built? Then the following day, this prayer came up during my Vespers prayer time, and I was reminded that we are not called by God to do that which is easy. And what he has called us to do, he will provide all that is needed:

"O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called me to stand in this house, and to serve you at this work. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that by my life and teaching I may set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my faith. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in conversation give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen." 

So what's next? Our local DCF office will be informed that we have completed the MAPP training, and they will assign to us a social worker to be the support person specifically for our family (each foster child who comes into our home will have their own separate social worker). This part may take about two weeks. After that, the family social worker will meet with us several times to write up our home study, a rather invasive (so we were told) document detailing every detail of our family life, and our home will be given a second safety check. The home study write up process takes around 30 hours of a social worker's time, and while they are supposed to only have a few such studies to do each month, they can sometimes have five, six, eight such studies to do. On top of their other duties. So the trainers said to expect at least a month to a month and a half for the home study.

So for now, we sit back and wait. We finish getting the guest room set up for an infant/young child. I wade through the boxes and bins of kids clothes and equipment up in the attic and get it organized and ready for use again. We continue to talk to the kids about what's going to be happening. We wait. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Lenten Season


Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For the observance of this season as a family, we will be participating in the #richandrootedpassover created by Jennifer Naraki who also put together the #slowandsacredadvent we did in in December. Her Advent work was filled with beautiful crafts, recipes, and readings that will become family traditions for us, and I am confident that her Lenten work will be the same.

For the observance of this season for me personally, I will be practicing the traditional fixed hour prayer for the duration of Lent (Phyllis Tickle's work on this is considered the easiest to access for modern practitioners). A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess. Of all the practices she attempted, fixed-hour prayer (also  known as the "Divine Offices" or "the liturgy of the hours) is the one she seemed to enjoy the most. She wrote of the relief of not having to constantly create new prayers to God, and she found joy in knowing others around the world were praying the very same prayers and had done so for hundreds of years before her. I love a good ritual, and I was inspired by her account of her experience. I ordered the books over a month ago, and I've been so looking forward to getting started.

Wishing you a blessed Lent filled with peace, introspection, and the eventual joy of a risen Savior.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy Fasnacht Day!

Homemade cake donuts (recipe below). 
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About a half hour after breakfast, I caught Sinclair trying to commandeer all the donuts; she also took one bite only out of three of them.

You can take the girl out of Pennsylvania, but you can't make her give up donuts on Shrove Tuesday!

 I will always think fondly of my Lehigh Provost Office coworkers who introduced me to the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Fasnacht Day and the cinnamon roll donuts with chocolate icing they would get from a local bakery. Magical.

This year Luther had preschool in the morning so I got up early to make donuts for breakfast. One donut was dyed green for his school snack as his class is celebrating Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham today.

Tonight, our church is celebrating Shrove Tuesday with a pancake dinner, so it's pretty much breakfast sweets all day.

May you have a blessed and safe last day before Lent, and I hope you have donuts and pancakes (or King cake for my southerners out there) to your hearts content.

Past Fasnacht Days:

*Recipe for baked cake donuts:
non-stick veg pan spray (or a stick of butter will do) for greasing the tin
2 cups cake flour,
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (heaping if you are me) ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (I never have buttermilk on hand, so I always just make it from milk and vinegar; also, don't worry about that "scant" ridiculousness, just measure out a normal cup of milk.)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. In large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Add buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter, Beat until mixed, but don't go too crazy on the mixing.
3. Grease your donut tin (if you don't have a donut tin, a cupcake tin works fine but they just won't have holes in the middle) with the veg spray or unwrap one end of a stick of butter and use that to grease the tin. Fill each pan cavity 2/3 full.
4. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops of the doughnuts spring back when touched (they will be light colored, not really browned on top). If you have to reuse the tin to bake them all, make sure you grease it each time. I know this from experience . . .
5. Finish the donuts with chocolate or vanilla glaze, or cinnamon sugar. They are tastiest when fresh.

*recipe makes 12 donuts; I usually double it.
** recipe comes from Wilton.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sinclair Turns Two!

Sinclair Turns Two!
Sinclair woke up to a baby doll stroller and doll bunk beds we which we had painted blue and pink. 
Sinclair Turns Two!Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two!Sinclair Turns Two!
A newborn baby doll from grandparents. 
Reading Sinny's new book. #instasinclair #fatherhood #reading
A beautiful book for a beautiful girl. 
Sinclair Turns Two!
Birthday breakfast of homemade biscuits. 
Sinclair Turns Two!Sinclair Turns Two! Abstract watercolor birthday cake. #edibleart #happybirthday #twoyearsold #birthdaycake
For the birthday cake, I tried out a technique I saw on the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show: marshmallow fondant. Then we all painted the cake with food coloring watercolors. 
Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Girlfriend takes her cake seriously. #prodigy #cake #birthdaycake #happybirthday #instasinclair
A three-layer vanilla cake with raspberry jam filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. 
My instagram friend made this charming art piece for Sinclair's birthday. Made me smile as I cleaned up the disaster in the kitchen from making her cake! #happybirthday #instafriends #instasinclair
My instagram friend and graphic artist Molly ( did this charming little picture of Sinclair based on one of the pics from the photo shoot I did right before her birthday. 

This year, the info meeting for prospective foster parents fell on Sinclair's big day. So we all got up early to watch her enjoy her presents and have a birthday breakfast of biscuits and jam. Then we headed into Arlington for the meeting where she and Luther got to run around the meeting room (a church gymnasium) with her new baby stroller. Afterwards, we had lunch in Belmont then returned to Arlington and hung out together in the children's room of the local library. Back at home we painted her cake as a family and had a birthday dinner of her favorite meal, mac and cheese. 

Sinclair, littlest love, you are our pride and joy. We adore your charm and your swagger. We love your affectionate and generous nature. Happy birthday dearest girl. 

For Sinclair's first birthday celebration, see here

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In the beginning . . . foster care

The Olivers
Picture from our 2016 Christmas card

We always said we'd have three kids. We'd tell anyone who asked, that's what the plan was. However, to say that I dislike the state of pregnancy would be a rather large understatement. It is, to me, nine months of discomfort ranging from a bit annoying to utter agony. And I have normal, uncomplicated pregnancies. And don't even get me started on those first three postpartum months. After Sinclair was born, even Piercen was all "you know, two is ok. Two feels good." 

But I've always had this nagging thought in my head that fostering/adopting was in our future. When Piercen and I were still in the college dating phase, I remember telling my mom that I didn't need to have biological children, that I could fall in love with a child that didn't come from my body. Those nagging thoughts didn't go away even after we had two of own beautiful biological children.

Back in the early fall, our pastor wrote this piece in our church's weekly newsletter about how God speaks literally to some people and not to others. It's not that those for whom God speaks to are any better off spiritually (I mean, even Mother Teresa spoke of God's silence), but that, for whatever reason, God speaks to some believers and not to others.  

Well, God speaks to me. He is a voice in my head, independent of my own, that often speaks words of love and comfort when I am down, but also truths, insights, and directions that, frankly, I am not always thrilled to hear. And he can be a real nagger. And for over two years, he has not stopped  chiming in with statements about being us becoming a foster care family.

In the past, I had good excuses as to why we couldn't foster; since I was running the shop, I didn't have enough time to take care of another child, since our third bedroom was my office, we didn't have enough room for any more children. When I finally decided to give up the shop, I heard God say something akin to "Excellent. Now, you can start doing what I've called you to do."

So we decided we would check things out. We made plans to attend a foster care info meeting hosted by a local Lutheran social services organization. However, no one from the organization showed up to the meeting. So Pierce and I used the time to sip coffee at a nearby cafe and really talk about our hopes, fears, concerns, and questions about foster care and what sort of parameters might work for our family. We decided that emergency and respite care for children 0-2 years of age (to maintain birth order with our own children) would make the most sense for our family and our space constraints.

The Sunday after the nonexistent meeting, I had a chat with a woman from our church whose family is in the process of adopting a little boy from the foster care system. She suggested going directly through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). Fast forward a couple of weeks, I was sitting in the Sunday morning worship service making mental notes to call DCF that week when I saw an announcement in the bulletin that DCF would be holding an info meeting in Arlington for prospective foster families.

We attended that meeting last week and had some really informative conversations with a DCF social worker, a current foster care mother, and two other couples looking to become foster parents. After the meeting, we filled out the foster parent application, and the social worker promised to forward it on to the Malden office.

A couple of days ago, I got a call from a Malden (North Shore) social worker, and she is coming this morning to meet me and to do the initial check of our home. Since then, I've had a momentary freakout when I realized we can't fit a convertible carseat (for kids around 1-4 years old) in our car along with the carseats for Luther and Sinclair. But then we tested our infant carseat, and it works fine. This means that for now, we will be limited to caring for infants, which the social worker assured me there was quite a need for.

This morning, I have neatened up the house, set up the coffee maker for a fresh pot, arranged a plate of leftover V-Day brownies, and have added multiple questions to an already long list.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Happy Birthday Sinclair!

Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two! Sinclair Turns Two!

Our littlest love turns two today! I did a photoshoot of her yesterday to capture her last day as a one year old. Today, we're having birthday biscuits for breakfast, family time at the Arlington library, lunch out, then home for a tea party, homemade mac and cheese, and cake. A very sweet day for a very sweet girl!

For Sinclair's 1st birthday photo shoot: see here 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Recent Thrifting Finds

Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Sweater for me. Brand is "Country Suburban" which is a new one to me. 
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Sweater/tunic for me. Brand is Chaps. I adore this piece; it's super soft and comfy with fun little pockets in the front, and the colors are flattering.
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Cardigan for me. I'm not one to pass up a good pastel pink anything. 
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Sweater/shirt for Luther for next year. 
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Vest for Luther for next year.
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Brown Mary Jane shoes for Sinclair; a bit big on her now, but prob not for long.
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
This thing is cool. It's a tea strainer, but it has this swinging plate underneath to catch the drips. 
Pierce was impressed by it. 
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Pretty little jars to hold the citrus flavored sugars and salts I've been making to give as hostess gifts this year.  
Thrift Finds 1/9/17
Smallish glass canister jar with metal clamp. Going to be used to hold edible gifts, unless I come up with another use for it in the meantime which is likely to happen. 

My apologies for the subpar quality of these photos. I was taking them in the late afternoon, and there really wasn't enough light. 

This haul was from a couple of weeks ago. Since I'm not looking for shop items anymore, I don't "need" to go the thrifts as often, and my take-homes are not as large as before. Which is good cause then I can show you what I picked up without being overwhelmed by photographing/describing it all.  

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Letting Go


Back in November, late one night as I lay in bed, I came to a rather sudden decision: it was time to close my beloved vintage shop.

I opened Vintage Soup in early 2010. It was my creative outlet and my avenue for building a business that fit my aesthetics and adhered to my standards.  And for six years, I have loved it. I've loved the combing through dusty thrift store shelves in search of vintage treasure. I've loved researching those found treasures and discovering their histories. I've loved photographing each item and writing up each item description. I've loved showing off the shop on social media and interacting with other like-minded vintage aficionados. I've loved the customer compliments and hearing how they appreciate the way I run my business. I've loved it all, and I could and did see myself doing this work for years to come.

And yet for the past two years, the shop had only been marginally profitable, for reasons I tried to explain away to myself; I have young kids at home;  I haven't had enough time to put into the shop, etc. However, as 2016 drew to a close, I started to take a serious look at my shop stats. Views from the year were way down from 2014 (my best year). Etsy has become saturated with vintage sellers since I started back in 2010. While this is mostly a good thing for buyers, as a seller, it has become very hard to get your items seen in a sea of other vintage items. Plus, Etsy changed the search algorithm to reward sellers who are most active in their shops, and that's a great change. But I can't be one of those most active sellers. I have two little children who require the vast majority of my time and attention, and will continue to do so for a long time.

When I started to really look at the hours I was spending on the shop and the income I was making, it was something like pennies per hour. I had always thought and hoped that once the kids were in school, I would have enough time during the day to make a decent financial contribution each month to our family, but I could see that was not going to happen for many years, if ever.

And as much as I loved doing the shop work, it also caused me to feel a lot of guilt. Guilt if I didn't spend every free moment I had doing shop work; guilt when I didn't meet the number of new shop listings for the week that I had set for myself; guilt when I wasn't able to keep up with the social media aspects like I felt I needed to, and so on and so forth. Even worse, I found myself resenting my children. They need so much time and attention, and I was angry when their needs spilled over into what I considered shop needs.

After I finally faced the possibility of letting VS go, I realized I had been split in two for who knows how long. I was trying to be a fully committed mother, wife, and family caregiver while at the same time trying to be a fully committed shop owner. I wasn't achieving any of those goals.

That night in bed, I finally admitted to myself that I had been holding on to VS, and the dream of VS because I was scared. I was scared of being just a stay-at-home-mom in a society that doesn't value such work. I was afraid of losing myself and what made me interesting in the daily grind of caring for a family. I was afraid of others thinking I had wasted the excellent education provided me by Oglethorpe and Lehigh Universities. I was afraid of the moment when I would have to figure out what I was going to do once the kids were in school, of writing resumes after years of being out of the "workplace," scared of being stuck in entry level job when almost every friend I have has spent years building their career up. I'm still scared of all these things.

For months now, God has been speaking to my heart about other plans he may have for me; plans about working in the foster care system, plans about working to help build understanding and respect among the major faith communities, plans to make a difference in people's every day lives. He has also been reminding me of some other true loves: work done in public history and cultural non-profits.

I keep thinking of that bible verse where God says "For I know the plans I have for you, not to harm you, but to prosper you and give you a future."

As soon as I had decided to let go of Vintage Soup and the dreams I had for it, I felt the lifting of a huge burden off my shoulders that I had not known was there.

I don't know what my future "career" is going to look like and may not know for a long time. I'm working to be ok with the not knowing and with the fears I have about the future. I've asked God for two things; a career I can be passionate about and one that I can be proud of. And so I am going to sit back, take care of my family, fully committed, and wait for God's direction. If I've learned anything over the past thirty-three years, it is that God's plan for my life turns out to be, without fail, so much better than anything I could have come up with. If you are the praying type, please pray for me. And if you have been a customer of Vintage Soup, thank you so very much. You have given me an immense amount of pleasure and satisfaction these past six years. It has been a joy and an honor.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Advent & Christmas

Nothing like a Christmas post in mid-January! Here's a recap of our 2016 Christmas season.
"O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel." Celebrating this first Sunday of Advent. #advent #slowandsacredadvent
In liturgical churches, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This past year, we incorporated its observance into our home life by using Slow + Sacred Advent by Jennifer Naraki. Also, that's a snake tattoo on Sinclair's arm. 
Planted some basil seeds as part of our #slowandsacredadvent . And also because we're all obsessed with basil. #advent #basil #homegardening #childhood #instasinclair #instaluther
Planting seeds to honor Jesus as the Seed. 
Orange Cake in recognition that in times past, oranges were a rare seasonal luxury and part and parcel to the holiday season.