Monday, August 26

The Big First {for mommy & daddy too!}

We've entered.
The school calendar will now rule our lives for the next 20+ years. :) 
We had one very excited little guy!
 Many moms talk about the emotional torture as they prepare to send their child off for the first time. Maybe there's something wrong with me, :) but I truly felt only excitement for him! We were very much on the fence about preschool. Not sure if we would send him or if it's necessary for everyone, but this boy loves to learn. And we felt he would thrive in a new learning environment. Especially with having various foster kids in & out of our home which can create seasons of chaos, not to mention having a lot of little ones competing for attention, I knew I could not count on having devoted time to lessons. We were so happy to find a school that did 3 day / half-day. So he will go from noon-3, M/W/F. This school also has half day kindergarten which is a big bonus for us. I love the slow transition before going full day in 1st grade. I guess I'm not totally ready to send him off. :)
It's hard to wait until after lunch when you're so excited. 

{ Just so mommy can join the party, I was heading to my first parent orientation.} 
His teacher comes so highly recommended and she is fantastic!  She also has a full-time aid which will help with the energy that is 11 boys & 3 girls in his class. :)
I love that he gets to do music, art & gym classes each week as well. 
Because school will do that to ya.
{And sometimes only your sister's sunglasses are in the car.}
We love you, Graham, and we love to see your excitement as you learn & grow! But most of all we pray that you....
...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 2 Peter 3:18

Thursday, August 15

Pgh Momtourage turns 4!

It's hard to believe that the little group I started, Pgh Momtourage, turned 4 this August!
My initial thought.....hey, let's throw a party!
And let's invite local small businesses to be a part of our event.
And let's see if we can get an amazing location.
And let's see if a Food Truck wants to come.
And let's get some cool family entertainers.
And let's have a great night!
And so we did.
Thanks to Andrew's involvement in our church's neighborhood community group, I received the city's approval to hold our event in the beautiful West End Overlook. Normally a $250 fee, I was so thankful for this great venue!  Local businesses set up tables & wares and it was fun to see so many people, old friends & new, come and join us. All our entertainers, businesses, & food vendors donated their time & resources, it was amazing to see everyone jump on board and want to make this happen.
My friend James, who also happens to be a fun entertainer, was up for the opening show. Happy Harry the Clown started out our evening with a show with lots of laughs.
Next on our list of great entertainers was the always hilarious Pittsburgh Magician Al Mazing!
Very funny, the kids (& adults) love him!
A great crowd!
  So happy to have the BRGR Food Truck come with yummy burgers & shakes! They told me it was one of their favorite events they had been a part of, but I'm sure it was partly because of their view for the evening. :)
The West End Overlook is a hidden gem! It was fun to have so many people come through that had never been to this little spot. I know it was exactly the exposure the Community Group was hoping would happen.
 Since our church, Three Rivers Grace Church, was only a few blocks from this location, it was a great opportunity to be there with candy, water, & books to give away!
Our local library branch was so kind to come out as well.  They had the genius idea to bring a sand pool, complete with dinosaurs. It was a big hit! 
Children's librarian, Ms. Jamie, (my kids love her!) ended our evening with her ukulele, tambourines, + a goodnight story time.  
 Faces by Christina was on hand doing some great face art!
Some great local businesses joined us! They all generously gave away prize packages at the end of the evening!
We were so excited to hear that Klavon's is re-opening in the Strip District! They brought some of their amazing ice cream & homemade fudge - delish!
Klavon's is an authentic antique 1920's Ice Cream Parlor located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh- 2801 Penn Avenue. Re-opening under new ownership, but the same awesome historic feel.
Anne Lee is a talented local artist & author. She has written an excellent children's book When You Are Camping (great summer resource for kids!) She also does beautifully hand painted cards & pictures. Check her out here to see more of her creative work!
The talented gals from Simple Celebrations!
Simple Celebrations is an event planning service that takes all of the work out of organizing your happy occasion. Whether you need an all-inclusive event or just custom designed favors, our goal is to create a unique celebration tailored to your needs. You choose your theme, set your budget, and leave the rest to us! From delivered d├ęcor that you set up on your own, to having us there to put it all together, Simple Celebrations will help you to host an event to remember.
Bumble n Bug has fun, unique gifts for babies & moms!
They specialize in hand crafted baby products that are fun, whimsical and downright adorable.
E2 Toys to Try is a fantastic local indoor play space + toy store. They came with glitter tattoos, games, crafts & prizes! The Momtourage is a big fan of holding playdates there!
PartyLite brought quality candles & beautiful accessories!
Monkey Kisses BOWtique brought adorable girly accessories!
Check out her Big Bows for cute babies!
Jenny Jones from Silpada Jewelry (with a cute little sidekick!)
Our friend Laura has newly opened Chateau in Pittsburgh's North Side.
Offering breakfast, lunch and unique sweet-treats in a relaxed environment with natural wood decor, retro Pittsburgh photos on the walls and humorous/witty blurbs to tickle your funny bone. Grab a cup of locally roasted coffee, or one of our signature Chateau herbal tea blends, while chatting up one of our friendly Chateauristas.  Try a Apple Pecan Salad...Ham, Bacon and Maple Mayo Panini...Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Slaw Wrap...or one of their many delicious sweet treats! Pittsburgh Born and Fed!
Created To Play has a complete Etsy store with everything for your party needs! With favors, party supplies, photo props, cards & much, much more. Custom creations also available. Check her shop for your next wedding or baby shower, or party of any kind!
Grace in Abundance brought the most beautiful & colorful assortment of wares!
Sweet items for little ones out of beautiful fabrics that I love:
skirts, dresses, headbands, quilts,
receiving blankets, bibs, burp cloths,
onesies, applique gifts and more.
Pamper Parties Pittsburgha unique mobile spa party business, offered free nail art for the evening and gave us a great overview of their Indulgence line of Bath, Body, and Skin Care Products made from all natural edible ingredients!
 Face-Painting Designs by Dana braved rush hour traffic and was able to arrive half way through our event! She offered free face art and had some very happy customers!  This is Caleb & Emma from our church. Let's just say Emma holds a very special place in Graham's heart right now. :)
Yeah, that guy in the background did lots of behind the scenes stuff. He's the best. :)
Our local councilwoman stopped by. As did Batman.

 This girl snatched as many as {above pictured} cupcakes as possible. :) She's quick, let me tell ya. Thankful for the small army of church friends who helped keep watch over the 4 wee ones. We totally could not have survived with the help!
Have loved the opportunity this avenue has given me to meet people all around Pittsburgh. Having recently passed the 1,000 "likes" mark on facebook, it has grown to much more than I had imagined. I am currently turning down more opportunities than I am accepting, but such is this season of life!
Thankful to the over 200 guests that came out to join us, thankful to everyone who came together to make this happen, and thankful for God blessing us with perfect weather for a fantastic night!
Happy 4 to the Pgh Momtourage!

Monday, August 12

How do you give them up?

Regarding foster children this question is posed to me over & over again.
And then again.
Truly if I had a dollar for every time it was asked, G & E's college funds would be well funded. :) However, let me give you a peek into my sinful, selfish heart and let you in on something we have come to learn is harder than letting them go. Loving well. It can be hard to love children that are not your own, especially for an extended stay in your home.
The better question for foster parents is not how do you give them up? it is how do you love them well?
Keep in mind that many kids coming into the foster system are often at their worst. They have just been taken from all that's familiar. They present challenges because of various neglect or abuse they have experienced. They have often had very little structure or discipline in their life. Life is thrown into a transitional time of chaos for everyone. 
It's hard to have a peaceful home and bring in kids for whom screaming at each other is normal par for the course.
It's hard to have a 2YO scream no in your face constantly.
It's hard to see stuff get broken & ruined in your house.
It's hard to see your children get bitten multiple times.
It's hard to change hundreds of diapers that are not your child. Especially when they go from a "candy, coke & mcdonalds" diet to whole foods & produce. The diaper situation at transition time around here is often really, really bad. Yes, I have thrown up. :)
It's hard to have other kids put every.single.thing. in your house in their mouth. Especially as snot drains from their nose.
It's hard to have a child that screams at the top of their lungs constantly, for no apparent reason.
It's hard to have kids throw themselves on the floor & tantrum every.single.time you re-direct them. We tend to run a torturous aren't allowed to do things such as chew on cords, eat chalk, fall down stairs, or other things hazardous to their health. :)
There are challenges and it is hard. But I won't for a second say that every minute is bad or that we haven't experienced great benefits through this journey. Let me share some of the mini-miracles we get to share in.
The kids who couldn't identify basic fruits & vegetables. Yelling green pepper, my favorite! as being served.
A child who responds with a glassy stare at being tickled (appearing to not have experienced much touch), rolling with belly laughs at being tickled.
Every single child we have taken in sings "He set my feet on a Rock!" at the top of their lungs.
The 11mo who comes to us with only a juice bottle, not used to formula or solids, eating & drinking (milk) normally within a few weeks.
The 2yo who had never used utensils eating oatmeal with a spoon.
Kids yelling "Bible time!" at 7pm.
Seeing your own kids give unselfishly of their toys, their clothes, & their parents.
An almost nonverbal 2 year old when he comes, 6 weeks later, singing "His name is Jesus!"
A child who screamed bloody murder at being left in a crib, cooing themselves to sleep.
Seeing their joy as they experience fun activities for the first time.
Seeing them being loved on so much by our church family.
Kids hugging and saying sorry to each other.
Another aspect that we completely did not expect was how we can be a blessing to their families. We've had contact with various family members who of course feel slight panic that children they love are in "the system". We are able to put their minds at ease at how the kids are responding, positive changes we are seeing, and share pictures.
We are still so new at this and learning every day. God has to (& does) fill us with grace each day. We fail in our love & patience sometimes. But we pray that He continually works in our hearts to love others as Christ loves us.  
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23
Let me tell you, we have gone through some real grief as some of the children have left our home. It can be hard. Some kids harder than others (wink). But for anyone considering foster care, don't let how do you give them up be the factor you most dwell on. Spend lots of time praying on whether you can love them well.