Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Card Greetings

It is not surprising to me that it has been so long since I have posted in my blog. Life has kept us so busy with all the children and managing their lives along with our lives.  But it is a good life! 

As we enter the Advent Season, we had our family Christmas card photo shoot last week.  Our photographer, Julie Heisey, got some amazing photos of us.  But then when it came time to sit down and get the cards ordered and update our address list, I started to feel extremely stressed.  After talking about the reasons behind my stress, (I had just reviewed our calendar for the next two weeks and it is jammed packed) we came to the decision that we were going to discontinue sending out Christmas cards.  This may be temporary, but in this season of our lives, it is just not feasible to get it done.  So, instead, we decided that we would post our annual update letter along with a photograph of our family.  (Due to confidentiality rules for our foster baby, we are unable to show her face at this time on the Internet.) 

December, 2015 

This has been a year where we have grown in our faith as we faced the challenges in our lives.  It was discovered after Cathy’s mom surgery in December that she has Stage IV Colon Cancer.  This was a devastating blow to her parents but we knew that it was in God’s hands.  She spent this year undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  We helped them have a huge party in June to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary at which time they renewed their vows.  She continues to work on getting her strength back and we are praying for a clean scan in a few weeks.

Mark & Cathy celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in January.  Mark continues his role as an elementary school principal in the Tempe School District and is also an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University.  Cathy began teaching training foster parenting classes for future foster parents at their licensing agency.

Vanessa turned 18 in February and subsequently made some decisions that did not mix with our family values and she was asked to move out and figure out life on her own.  We sought counsel from our pastors as this decision was very hard for us but we will not support her current choices.  She has free will and we pray daily that her heart will soften.

Suzy is 15 and a sophomore and she continues to play trumpet in the high school marching band and she has also joined the church’s youth band as one of the vocalists.  She continues to work hard in school, even though it is very difficult for her.  Her perseverance is truly admirable.

Pablo is 13 and in 8th grade and he continues to be an excelling student and, along with being an great clarinet player, we have discovered that he is a very talented pianist.  Both he and Suzy performed in the high school talent show last month.  Pablo played Fur Elise on the piano and Suzy sang a duet with one of her close friends.

Tyler is 9 and in 4th grade.  He is doing very well in school and loves singing in the church KIDZ Choir and AWANA at church.  He is becoming quite the artist.

Issac is 7 and in 2nd grade.  He is (finally!) in a regular education classroom.  He still receives services for his learning disability but he is making great strides and is reading!  His stuttering is very minimal now.

Adrian is 5 and in Kindergarten.  He was named an excelling SOAR student this first trimester in school.  Only one child in each class was awarded this.  He loves school and he is beginning to read.

Chase is 4 and has become Mr Bossy Pants.  He loves attending church and especially AWANA.  We still call him Smiley as his smile still lights up a room.

Laura is 3 and is a huge trouble maker.  Her cuteness just melts our hearts but her knack for destroying everything can be downright annoying.  She loves being a big sister to Sweetie.

Sweetie is now almost 17 months old.  She is still considered medically fragile and we spend time at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and with other specialists having tests run to see how she is doing.  She walked at 12 months, which amazed her physical therapist.  She finally started saying dada and momma this past month.  We had hoped to announce her adoption in the newsletter as it was scheduled to be held on November 21st, but we hit a technical bump that is being resolved. 

Jessica spent a couple of months in Arizona over the summer and we were so blessed to have some time with her and Bear.  We were sad when she made the decision to move back to California.

As you have read, this has definitely been the year of challenges yet we have much to be thankful for!  We have seen God do amazing things through these challenges and our family is much stronger because of it.  We pray that as we enter this Advent season where we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice of giving up his heavenly form to become human to save us, that we will continue to remember what is truly important.  Merry Christmas!
The Eley's
Mark, Cathy, Suzy, Pablo, Tyler, Isaac, Adrian, Chase, Laura, & Sweetie

Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Year Later

It has been over a year since I left my employment of almost twenty years. I hadn't stopped by my former office since I attended my former boss' retirement party in December until Friday. I walked into the satelite maintenance shop that I turned down the opportunity to manage (instead I chose to be a stay at home mom) and for the first time, I felt no pangs of regrets. It was great to see a former employee and several others that I had worked closely with and to catch up on their lives and work life, but I no longer felt like I was missing out on something. A former co-worker (Jim - whom I had confided in when I left about my insecurities of being a stay at home mom) commented that he had never seen me look so happy and I was much more confident than when I had left. We had often spoke of our faith in Christ and he knew that I was following the path that God was leading me, but he also knew that it was scary for me because it was an unknown. If you had told me at my farewell party that I was going to be a foster mom to four children ages 0 to 3 at the same time I would have told you that is crazy. I guess I'm the crazy one!

It was great to go back and feel so reaffirmed that my decision to leave was the right one. Of course it was the right decision since the Lord was leading me, but I felt guilty for feeling affirmation on Friday when I knew fourteen months ago that I was making the right decision and following God's will for my life. Well, I decided that Satan is really good at planting seeds of doubts, so I have made sure that the seeds haven't grown into anything and I move along.

One thing I did share with Jim was that my new adventure was much harder than anything else I had ever done, including my last project that I had worked so hard (saving everyone's job from being outsourced). I shed many a tear and smile many smiles within minutes of each other and I get very little sleep, but I am so glad that I have chosen to continue to follow Christ. "Better than a Hallelujah" is currently playing in the background and reminds me of a previous blog that I had written and it rings even more true today. I spend quite a bit of time praying and crying out to God to help me and the children that He has blessed me with. They each come with their own unique struggles, challenges and rewards. In a heated discussion with one of them last week they pointed out that they did not ask for this life with us and I remarked back that I didn't ask for the current situation with them either, but they corrected me and stated that yes I did because I had asked God for children. So true, so I ate those words.

Tonight was one of those frustrating nights (as the bedtime routine usually is - maybe because I can't wait to sing the "Halleluah Chorus" once the eight children are all in bed??) as the boys' room was a total disaster and they couldn't find the three year old's pj bottoms and they were fighting which in turn was frustrating the older girls and I was trying to put the babies to bed and of course the little baby was crying and had to be changed (again!), so I sent daddy in to deal with the boys after I had discovered that the three year old had taken a squirt bottle and sprayed the entire bathroom mirror with water. He came out later and reminded me that the boys are hard now but that they would be easier than girls when they reached adolescence. However, we have girls in the adolescence stage and boys in the hard stage so life is challenging at times, but this too shall pass. Too fast.

Way too fast, as I await the birth of my first grandchild this week from our oldest. So, what I have I learned this past year? That time passes too fast, we never have what we feel is enough time with our children and that no matter what happens, God is in control and I need to stop trying to control my life and just enjoy all that I have been blessed with! It is hard to believe that it has been thirteen months since I stopped getting a paycheck from the City of Scottsdale but I am blessed with the new purpose that Christ has led me!

We ask for prayers this week as Jessica prepares to give birth to her first child, a son and for us as we travel with our children to San Diego to see her, Corbin and baby boy Crawford. We have never traveled with all eight of them (we did 7 once but it was less than 1/2 the distance to San Diego) but we are up for the challenge.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thriving on Chaos

I was shocked to discover that I haven't blogged since June! Wow! Where did the time go? I can find numerous reasons for time flying over the past few months. To quote my wonderful husband "Our family thrives on chaos!" And we're proud of it!

Today, the letter of the day at our house is "Z". Z is for zoom (as our 3 year old foster child plays with a zillion matchbox and other assorted cars/trucks) as Z is also for zzzzz (which is what our 8 week old foster child is currently doing). Our 3 year old should be starting preschool tomorrow, which will be great for him as he needs to develop language and social skills that he can't do at home with just myself and the infant. And the washing machine and dryer are both running.

So, how did we get to this point today? Jessica got married in August and I finished up my bachelor's degree at the end of the September. All of the children were now in school during the day. I was bored and not motivated to do anything. The idea of scrapbooking (which is my passion) was squashed by my inability to have sufficient funds and space to do it properly as we desired to keep Jessica's old room as a guest room. I kept reading in the newspaper about the lack of foster families and was told by CPS (child protective services) that children who were removed from their families were having to sleep in CPS offices overnight as they couldn't find a bed for them. After much prayer, we decided to become emergency receiving foster parents. We discussed it with our children and they were supportive, knowing that it would be difficult to have a revolving door of children through our lives.

After fall break, we met with our foster care licensing worker and decided to take in children ages 0-4 (so that we wouldn't have to deal with enrolling and withdrawing from school every week as our school district doesn't do enrollment at their schools, you have to do it about 10 miles away.

Within 48 hours of us hitting the vacancy list, we took in a 2 1/2 week old infant boy (Baby C). Wow! Having a newborn was quite an adjustment for us, especially the lack of sleep! He is now almost 2 months old and still with us.

Within 48 hours of our second vacancy (upon Jeremi's adoption being finalized), we took custody of an 11 month girl (Baby B). She was a sweetheart! She stayed 6 days and then went to an approved relative placement.

The day after Baby B left, we drove to Glendale CPS offices to pick up a three year toddler boy (Toddler I). He is a riot! He will be with us for a few weeks while CPS works through some things with the family and then he (and his siblings) should be going to an approved relative placement.

We do have one more vacancy on our newly renewed foster care license but we feel that two at home with me is plenty. Not to mention the fact that we will be filled to the capacity of our suburban and dad would have to drive separately if we took another placement. (The idea behind 3 children is to allow for a sibling group so that they wouldn't have to be separated).

Our children handled Baby B leaving really well and I am fairly certain that there will be some relief when Toddler I leaves. Baby C will be a different story as he has been with us for quite awhile already and there is no time frame for him going back home at this time. I told my sweet husband that when he does go back, I'll need 24 hours in bed with several boxes of Kleenex and perhaps a 1/2 gallon of rocky road ice cream. Grieving is a normal part of the foster parent process. It just won't be easy.

We feel so blessed to be able to serve these precious little children. We feel that this is God's current plan for our lives. We don't know how long we will do this, but we are so blessed to do this. We have great support from our family and friends as well.

God continues to bless us in so many ways!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week day blahs

Most people have their moments of when they're feeling down, which is typical. I am no exception to this and today I am having one of those days. Today I feel like I just stay in bed all day long and let the tears flow. There are multiple reasons for my sad mood today, but I know that God will give me the strength to get through this day and the next and the next.

I've learned a few things through my darkness these past twelve hours.

* Mr. Fix it (my sweet husband) can't always fix everything.
* My communication skills have a lot to be desired as I forget that others aren't mind readers and I need to say what is on my mind.
* Habits and routines are not always a good thing if we become too dependent on them.
* I am responsible for how my darkness affects my children and myself.
* My lack of faith in myself and others which then creates a conflict is a problem that I need to eliminate.
* I need grown-up interactions.
* God lifts me up high when I am at my lowest.

I signed onto facebook this morning and a friend had posted a video my most recent favorite song from Chris Tomlin,"I Lift My Hands". The words reminded me that God is my refuge and strength, that "His arms are a fortress for the weak". Today I am at a weak point, yet I know that everything will be fine because I know that my heavenly Father will take care of me. I believe.

I know that it was no coincidence that when I woke up this morning and logged into Facebook that I was immediately greeted with this video reminder. God is so good.

Now, to push past my darkness and get going on some things that the children want to do today and some errands I need to accomplish. I will press on.

Dear Heavenly Father:

I am just a lowly person who has sinned and is struggling with those consequences. I ask your forgiveness for my lack of faith in myself and for forgetting that You are where I get my strength from. Please heal me and the relationships that have been impacted by my lack of faith.

Your Princess, Cathy

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Done! The calm after the storm

Done! Finished! Relief! Sanity!

Monday night the tile installation was completed. Mark, Vanessa, Suzy and I spent a couple of hours mopping the floors getting ready to move back home. Mark came back later that night to put all of the beds together so that we could move home on Tuesday.

Tuesday night we spent our first night at home with our new tile, among the dust and boxes and a high level of stress as we tried to make some sense of order out of the mess.

Saturday morning I unpacked the last box. Everything was finally in its right place. It was a great feeling! Our house has never looked better nor cleaner. The cleanliness won't last, but the new tile will help as it won't show the dirt like our light pink tile did. We also purged quite a few things that we no longer need, so we will be holding a yard sale after I clean out our storage shed where I know we have more items that we don't need. It's too hot now to do this, but the girls are really wanting to do a yard sale, so we'll see how the weather looks this coming weekend and if it's not too hot, then I know what we'll be doing this week; getting ready.

As I look back on these past two weeks, I am amazed at the difference in all of our children. They handled our small space confinement and the dust and boxes fairly well, but there is a definite peace and calm now that we are settled at home. I tried very hard to not let my own feelings of out of sortness be known to our children, but they are becoming very good at reading me. My children are amazing!

I feel very blessed and so thankful that God has allowed me to have these past few weeks of chaos so that I can be reminded of the peaceful calm. I take so much granted in my life and this most recent lesson on patience reminded me that I should not take what I have for granted and that I should appreciate every moment, both the good and the bad. The calm is a great place to be, yet we learn and grow so much during the stormy times. Today I choose the calm and I will embrace the next storm that comes along.

Now it's back to homework; got an assignment due in a few hours. :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

God is in control... of this control freak!

The majority of you who read this will realize that the following statement is not a new revelation for you. "I am a control freak!" Even though I am so thankful that I am not in control of my life and that GOD IS, I am still a control freak. I have proof that God provides for me, when I can't see a way. Yet still, I get frustrated, annoyed, upset, slightly emotional (okay Dr. Eley - stop laughing...) REALLY emotional and the list goes on.

In early April in my blog, I posted that I did not have the financial aid to complete my required credits to attain my bachelor's degree. Well, due to my newly status of "unemployed", I was granted additional financial aid (after submitting a significant amount of red tape paperwork). I recall being so upset with the school for getting my hopes up about being done and the tears of coming this far and not being able to finish. So, I walked graduation a couple of weeks ago and I am now preparing to finish up my degree. Silly me for getting all worked up!

My health has been another area where I wish that I was in control. Ever since I had pneumonia in April of 09, I have struggled with asthma. Doing breathing treatments several times a day has been very frustrating. The doctor was able to find the right combination of inhalers and allergy medicine and I am no longer taking daily breathing treatments, only when I need them. One thing that Mark and I knew had the potential to improve my health even more was to replace the carpet with tile. And our existing tile was horrible, so we would need to do the entire house. Sigh. Big $$$$.

Well, after our puppy made sure that our carpet was beyond help, a roll-off dumpster appeared and Mark (with a little help from my dad and I) pulled up the carpet and he pulled up all of the tile. Now what, I thought? We decided to meet with a tile contractor so I called them and they met me the same day. Five days later, new tile installation began. God provided the funding through my vacation pay-out at work.

All 2,000 square feet of furniture and everything else is now either in my backyard or the pod that sits in my driveway. The majority of my family is living in a 400 sq. ft. hotel room next door to my parents house, where our oldest daughter is staying. I'm thinking that I should have traded with her :-).

I am very much a home body. This hotel living is not for me. While I am enjoying time in the pool with my children, I would much rather be home. Right now, my two boys are sleeping on a sofa sleeper and they are literally on top of each other. It's fun watching Mark trying to untangle them without waking them up. Suzy and Vanessa are sharing a bed in our room and they are shoving and kicking each other all night. It's only been 4 nights, today is night 5, but I'm so done with this. However, I know that God is teaching me patience through this process (why He thinks I need this lesson AGAIN! I do not know).

Lessons learned these past few weeks:

1. I have little faith at times in God's willingness to provide me my wants; not just my needs (I want to finish college).
2. God always provides my needs (I have a roof over my head and I am with my family, albeit it really small).
3. At times I really do need assistance, as I can't do it all (another blog needed to explain just this lesson).
4. I can pack up my entire house in less than 5 days (without the kitchen).
5. We have a lot of books! (25 boxes worth!).
6. Installing 2,000 square feet of tile takes about a week; with no furniture or people living there.
7. I am loved!

My wonderful husband has the patience of a saint to put up with my emotional roller coasters as I attempt to achieve some sense of sanity in this insane world we live in. God is constantly teaching me that He too has patience with me and that He is ALWAYS faithful.

Chris Tomlin's newest song, I Will Lift My Hands Up, has really spoken to me.

Here is the chorus:

I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

The new phase of my life is not an easy one and these words remind me that no matter what, He is faithful. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Chapter

It is hard to believe that it has been over two months since I last blogged. This is not a reflection on the fact that my life has been boring since January 21st, but just the opposite. I'm not even sure where to begin, so I think that I am just going to do some bullet points that lead up to the new chapter in our lives.

* February 4th we met with CPS and an eight year old boy.
* February 11th, this sweet little boy was placed with us for adoption.
* February 11th I turned in my letter of resignation to the City of Scottsdale after almost twenty years.
* February 14th I reduced my in-office hours to six hours/day and worked the other two - four hours from home in the evenings.
* March 11th we signed the Intent to Adopt papers for our eight year son
* March 14th we headed to Disneyland for Spring Break
* March 25th was my last day with the City of Scottsdale
* March 28th I began a new chapter in my life, stay-at-home mom.

So, now I "stay" home. Not quite what I had imagined. The six hours a day that I am home with just Tyler and Jessica fly by. I thought that I would have plenty of time to get housework done and homework done. Not happening. I am still up late at nights getting things done. About the only thing that has changed is that we no longer go out to eat for dinner and dinners are typically ready no later than 6:00 PM. I think that once I get a handle on things and eliminate all of the one time items on my "to do" list, it will be a lot easier. I am also doing preschool with Tyler every day, which is a huge joy to me. I do have some down time each day (Tyler's nap time), which I am trying to leave as down time so that I can prepare for a future job opportunity if it were to come my way.

This has been a huge adjustment, which I expected, but I didn't expect the emotional roller coaster that I experienced last week. It was difficult to not get up each day and go to work, interacting with my great group of employees. My co-workers waited two days before they called me and my supervisor waited four days before he emailed me. They made me feel a little guilty not being there to help them, but I was able to talk them through it.

I also found out last week that I do not have enough credits to graduate after I finish these last two classes in June, so now I am having to take three additional classes. The financial impact of knowing that I am out of student loan money was hard to take, but we think that we have figured it out. I will be done by October, which will allow me to still walk graduation in May. God is so good to provide for us and I hope to use my degree later on in my life by substitute teaching and helping Mark run his education consulting business that he dreams of starting after he retires.

I am totally loving my life even more so, and feel totally at peace with our decision. Mark is so much happier and he is still very much involved in the day-to-day operations of Eley Castle. I was afraid that with me staying home, he would work longer hours and not touch base or help out, but these past two weeks he has still doing doctors' appointments when we have two children that have conflicting appointments and coming home at a decent hour when he is able to do. He calls or texts me just to say "I love you". I personally think he is checking to make sure that I haven't run away yet! (Just kidding!)

God is so faithful and has blessed us so much and we are so thankful that He has given us our beautiful children and that He has provided us a way so that I can stay home with them. My days are still filled, but with different joys and blessings.