Happy Halloween!

What a fun but busy weekend we’ve had here at House of Horne!

Friday we enjoyed Covenant’s BikeAThon –

the kids rode 6 miles around White Rock Lake with their schoolmates as a celebration of the huge fund-raising effort they just finished.

Fun and festivities followed….

Little plug for our sweet school: It is an amazing place to learn, and a very loving community of teachers and families.  Covenant also places a priority on drawing a diverse student body, and toward that end, they allocate a large percentage of their budget toward financial aid for families who could not otherwise afford a private classical education. Over 25% of our student body receives some sort of tuition aid, and our school is a better place for it. God bless all those folks who give over and above so that many, many wonderful families can stay at our school!

Before BikeAThon was even over, I grabbed the 3 boys and we headed out to Irving, where we did some early Trick-R-Treating at Jay’s office.

Every year, Epsilon decorates the entire two buildings, and hosts the children of employees. There is candy galore, and we always return with enough booty to both eat and have extra left over to hand out on Halloween night! We ran into our sweet friends the Turners and grabbed a quick group shot:

Later that evening, Nana and Grandpa arrived in town for the weekend’s sporting events (no, not the World Series) and we kept them busy running back and forth all day Saturday to volleyball and soccer. Baby Jacob even talked his parents into taking him to his first soccer and volleyball games.

Saturday night after so many games I lost count (ok there were only 4) we crashed Uncle Peter and Aunt Katie’s where we donned costumes again and celebrated our sweet cousin Sarah’s 6th birthday. She dressed up appropriately in princess attire and was the happy recipient of many gifts and birthday wishes as well as a pink and purple butterfly cake which Cousin Abigail and Auntie Trish lovingly (if a bit hurriedly) created in her honor. Isn’t she sweet?

Some of the Cousin Chaos (note: it was hard to take pictures between Zorro trying to stab the Indian standing next to him, and the Indian retaliating with threats of scalping the masked hero). But we did our best:

Sunday dawned a day of rest and worship, YAY! In the early evening we joined hordes of kiddos to tromp up and down streets begging for yet more candy. (Don’t they ever get tired of so much candy?) This was such a fun night…here is the group in their entirety:

Baby Juliet is wearing the costume that our own sweet Abigail wore when she was teeny-tiny. Love that.

Even some of the parents got into the festivities: Here is Mr. O explaining the finer points of wearing Lederhosen to some fascinated onlookers:

I close with a pic of my littlest Cowboy who looked awesome, but suffered mightily in these snazzy red boots of his (turns out boots are not all that comfortable to climb hills in!):

This is the first year I can remember that I neglected to get a shot of our four kids in their costumes all together. Which is a little sad, but like I said, it was a full weekend, and I am thankful for the pictures we do have of all the fun. I am wondering if maybe next year we will have five little TrickRTreaters in the House of Horne??

Today, You are Five

Dear Josiah,

It seems as I grow older that time passes more quickly.  It is hard to comprehend that the baby that was placed in my arms in the wee hours of the morning five years ago today has grown into 40 plus pounds of pure spunky boy! Oh how thankful we are for you!

Josiah, you keep us young and laughing. You are a joy to our entire family, and we cannot imagine life without you.  They say that the more children you have, the less attention the younger ones get. I’d like to think that far from that being the truth of the matter, you have not just two parents who think you are amazing, but a big sister and two big brothers who adore you as well, and are some of your biggest fans. We are all so glad you are part of our family!

These days you love music. You love to hang out with your two big brothers in the room you share together, turn up whatever song you are listening to nice and loud, and sing and dance your heart out. You also love Legos, Wii, and writing little notes to me which you seal in envelopes and tuck into little hiding places for me to find.

You are enthusiastic about almost everything. When someone gives you a gift, you unwrap it and exclaim over it with unbridled happiness.

You are BRAVE…braver than I’d like some days! You learned to do a backflip off the diving board this summer at our neighborhood pool. You will try just about anything, talk to just about anyone, and when you are hurt, cry very little.

You are AFFECTIONATE…maybe the most cuddly child we’ve had so far. Even at age 5 you will still sit in our laps to be hugged and snuggled. You give hugs freely and generously to your circle of family and many friends.

You are LOYAL…you are convinced that your siblings and cousins are your best friends in the world and you love them dearly. You tell us that your “Brudder, Nicolas” is your very best friend. You talk about your baby sister who is going to come home from Ethiopia someday, and how you cannot wait to meet her, and how excited you are to be a big brother.

You are OBSERVANT and CHARMING and DEAR…on most days, you will size up whatever outfit or accessory I am wearing and tell me, “oh Mommy, you look SO pretty today. I love your dress.” Or, “oh look Mommy how you painted your nails so beautifully, I like them!”  You are also fond of telling me that someday when you are all grown up, you will buy the house next door, so that you can live close by to me forever.

No matter where you live someday, or how grown up you get, in my heart you will always be my “Little Jo” and I will forever be so amazingly blessed to be your Mother.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Josiah!

GLADNEY-APPROVED!

Last Tuesday we received an email from our caseworker at Gladney with the opening line….

“Congratulations, you are now Gladney approved!!!….”

This is HUGE progress, and means that our adoption agency and all the power vested therein has officially approved our full adoption application, home study, etc. From what my adoption friends tell me, this approval means we can officially say that we are “paper-pregnant” for our little girl! We are so excited! (Be sure to look for a little counting “Ticker” to show up soon on our web page.)

Currently we are waiting on US Customs to approve our application for our I-600A forms. This the biggest piece of red tape that remains between us and a spot on the waitlist in Ethiopia. What is an I-600A, you ask? Good question!

I found this sweet little explanation on an International Adoption Website which is pretty reader-friendly. I just love the ending note “Keep in mind that processing your I600A may take as long as 90 days – if everything goes smoothly.”

Jay and I are learning that expecting everything to go smoothly really isn’t very realistic in general in the adoption world. Rather, it is best to assume that things will happen when they happen for a reason, and that ultimately no waits, lags, mistakes, or even oversights on anyone’s part is going to thwart our being matched with the little girl chosen for our family.  Which is not to say these lags or delays are going to be easy or pleasant; after all, there is a tiny little girl waiting at the end of all this, and we’d love for her to be with her new family sooner rather than later.

For now, we are thankful for receiving our Gladney approval, and excited about the next steps in our process!

Huge Progress!

WARNING:  Super-Long post to follow!

Please note: this entry should have been posted mid-August. I have been waiting to download a few pictures from Nicolas’ camera that I wanted to include with this post. Jay has a fancy way of tagging various pictures from various family cameras (our kids each have their own) and I cannot begin to understand his system, nor did I want to make a mistake and erase prior photos (as I have done before when I attempted to download any pictures except the ones from our “adult” camera!)

So forgive the delay…this news is truly about 5 weeks old…but I wanted to document it nonetheless!

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I figured that after I mailed our adoption application and supporting paperwork along with much of our dossier paperwork in mid-July, that there would be a lull in adoption activity and progress for a bit. Well, I was wrong.

Gladney, God bless them, wasted no time in scheduling our homestudy: 10 days after they received and processed all our paperwork, one of their caseworkers, Bethany C was here at our house conducting our home study. By way of aside, this home study just happened to take place in between three separate visits from various out of town guests, so it was a WHIRLWIND of a week for us here at House of Horne!

First, we enjoyed a wonderful weekend spent celebrating our newest family member, Baby Jacob, on the occasion of his baptism, and saw a TON of family:

On Sunday, my folks and the rest of the crew went home, and we changed a few sheets, washed a few towels, and got ready to welcome our dear old friends, the Moores for a few days of catching up after living on opposite sides of the country for 10 years now. Here’s a few of them…

The Charlies’ Angels:

and with the boys added in:

The day after we said goodbye to the Moores, we had our homestudy (more on that in a sec).

And starting the day after our home study, we were blessed by a weekend visit from a fellow “adopting from Ethiopia family”, the very fun crew from It’s Almost Naptime:

Well, back to the home study:

The actual home visit and interview process lasted much of a day, and mainly consisted of a lot of questions and answers about us, our family, both immediate and extended, our parenting, and our own childhood experiences, as well as our views and attitudes about adoption. It was helpful both to Gladney in determining if our family was a good candidate to adopt a child from Ethiopia, as well as to us in giving us a lot of information about the adoption process.

I was so glad to learn the level of care before, during and after the actual adoption that Gladney gives to their families. We chose this agency both because they are local, and because they have an excellent reputation and wealth of experience, and so far we are truly happy with our decision and feel they have been amazingly supportive to us. Here is a picture of us with Bethany, our social worker from Gladney, whom we thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with:

Another encouraging part of our homestudy was learning that within a five mile radius of our home live an abundance of families who have adopted or are in process to adopt children from Ethiopia. We already know a few of these families, and look forward to meeting more. How amazing to know that our future daughter will have the blessing of growing up in close proximity to other children from her birth country.

******************************************************************

The one other outstanding piece of our dossier that we had to handle at this stage was our FBI fingerprints. We actually need to be fingerprinted twice for our adoption process. This first set of prints goes to the FBI offices in West Virginia where they conduct a thorough background check for any sort of criminal record. We had been told to expect the processing and return time for these prints to take 12 weeks plus.

It has been on my to-do list to complete these prints since mid-June, but finding a weekday day when Jay and I could show up at the same police station during business hours proved challenging (he works quite a ways from home). And life has just been busy. We finally made the time on August 6th, the day before we left for vacation to get these prints done, since Jay had the day off. Friday afternoon, in the middle of packing for our trip, we dragged all four children down to the police station at SMU and for the first time in our entire lives, got fingerprinted!

Here’s my handsome guy getting ready for his fingerprinting:

The printing process:

And then it was my turn (love the little face peeking through behind us)

I dashed into the FedEx office at 8:57 that evening, just 3 minutes before closing time and popped those prints in the mail to the FBI. Less than 7 hours later, at 3:45 am we hit the rode for Alabama and I figured we wouldn’t hear anything more back on the prints till at least October. None of our friends have great stories to tell about the lag time on their FBI prints. One set of local friends who are in process to adopt from Bulgaria had their prints returned after 10 weeks of waiting this summer, only to learn that the FBI couldn’t read them much less process them, and they had to be redone. They are still waiting to hear back, bless their hearts.

So imagine my shock when a mere three days after arriving home from the beach, FedEx knocked on my door with an important looking envelope. I just knew it was our fingerprints being returned to us with orders to redo them; at least, I told myself, it only took them a few days to let us know they were unreadable.

But no….when I opened the envelope there were two stamped and sealed FBI approvals. Shocker. I literally began shaking, I was so stunned.  It had been less than 12 days since we mailed the prints: and 6 of those days were spent in travel back and forth to West Virginia. I called Jay, still shaking, to tell him we had FBI approval.

Jay is fond of saying that this adoption process is not a race, and that given all the different factors and pieces that need to fall into place, patience will be a blessing throughout. He is so good about just resting in the knowledge that God will orchestrate events such that our paperwork and approvals come through at just the right time for us to be matched with the little girl that God has chosen for our family.

Those prints didn’t need to come back as quickly as they did to prove anything to me, but I cannot begin to communicate what an encouragement it was to have them processed so lightening-fast!

The next big milestone we are waiting on is for Gladney to officially approve us to adopt. Our home study report has been sent for review and revision, and hopefully in a few weeks will be complete. After that, we will be Gladney-approved, and able to move on to the next step of this process! Hooray!

Summer is ending…

We are back from a glorious week at the beach….

Where we spent time soaking up lots of sunshine and sea air…

Boogie-boarding in the wonderful waves….

Playing all day long with Daddy in the surf….

And in our pool….

Building sand castles….

Digging for treasures….

Searching for shells….

Taking in the local wildlife….

Discovering that our best friend picked out a swimsuit in the very same fabric!

Posing for gratuitous beach photos for our parents….

Enjoying the beauty of God’s creation….

Perfecting our a-MAY-zing skillz! (don’t you think this shot could win an award or sumpin’?)

Reconnecting with precious friends….

Drinking copious amounts of Gatorade….

And eating way too much good food!

Even time spent in the kitchen is fun when you are at the beach with dear, old friends!

SO thankful for this sweet break from our normal routine.

This week we are busy with back to school parties, school shopping, meeting teachers, and getting ready for….

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!

Our Adoption Timeline Thus Far…

“So, Tricia: it’s been a full month since you posted on this here ole’ bloggy. What in the world have you Hornes been up to? ”

Well, my faithful readers (those 3 of you who still visit here on occasion) I am calling these past few weeks the “Month of the Adoption Paperchase”. I spent June 16 till July 16 absolutely obsessed with finishing the bulk of our paperwork for our adoption agency as well as our foreign dossier. On Friday afternoon, July 16 I finally mailed two fat FedEx envelopes and two fat checks. I feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment, for now!

Many of you have asked where we are in the process, and how long we’ve been working on this adoption thing. And….how long will it be till we have our daughter home??

In the interests of keeping a record for ourselves too, I am going to chronicle what we see as significant adoption milestones throughout our journey. Many adoption blogs keep their timeline on their front page for readers who want to follow along. While this is not an adoption blog, per se, hopefully, my Techie Dude of a husband can paste a link to our Timeline on the front page of our website so that this information is easily accessible to visitors long after this entry has vanished from our front page. Though, if I keep blogging with the frequency of this past month, it’ll still be here for some time to come!

Please note: I do not mean to offend anyone by adding in notes about our expenses along the way. When we were researching adoption, we were very curious about what it would require financially, and I receive plenty of inquiries about how much this is all going to cost us when it is all said and done. To be perfectly honest, in US dollars, it will be about $30,000. I will blog at a later time about why adoption costs what it does.

But yes, that is a lot of money. And no, our family is not wealthy, in fact we spent most of last year unemployed, without the benefit of “unemployment”, and had to dip into much of our savings in order to pay our living expenses.

Just as last year was an exercise in living by faith (and with a much tighter belt!), so is this adoption process. We are already seeing God’s provision for our steps so far, and we look forward to seeing how the story unfolds from here.

With all that in mind, I give you a rough timeline (with added-in verbiage, aren’t you shocked?) of the events that led us to where we are today.

January, 2010: Jay and I are shocked to realize we have each been feeling “pulled” to adopt for some time.

My heart has been feeling heavy since early in the year 2009, even while we were ourselves unemployed and in no place to consider something like adoption. I could not shake the realization that there are millions of children in this world who need a family, and here we sit in our fairly comfortable middle class life, okay sure, definitely a busy and full life, but one that absolutely renders us able and happy to welcome another child into our family!! Whereas I had felt “complete” with our 4th child, I also began to desire a 5th very much. This was a key change in my own attitude, as I had previously thought 4 kiddos were “plenty”!!

Jay’s experience began in the fall as he began to feel very compelled that he was to become a father to someone fatherless. This after 10 months of unemployment, which I find almost uncanny, given the stresses he had been under for the previous entire year. For him, the guy who was quite happy and content with 3 kids a few years ago, to now be Daddy to 4, and to further realize he was yearning for a 5th was pretty shocking. More and more he felt there was a hole in our family that ached to be filled.

We never shared our thoughts/feelings with the other, so we never realized before January what the other was experiencing. I assumed Jay would tell me I was crazy if I admitted to him that I thought we ought to pray about adopting an orphan. Jay figured the feeling might pass with time, and kept his thoughts to himself on the matter.

In January, when we were praying for the people of Haiti and talking about the tragedy that had befallen this country, we began speaking more openly about the huge problem in our world that so many children are without families and face lives of hunger, oppression, crime, prostitution, or worse, death at a very young age. While we did not have any desire (or ability) to “save the world” we wondered if perhaps God might use us to save “just one”. One is a start.

February 5, 2010: I write to my friend, Jana Fundy asking her a million questions.

Michael and Jana Funderburk, friends from New St Peters, and part of our church home group, adopted their precious daughter Ruthie from Ethiopia in 2008. They moved to Ethiopia in 2009 to work with the Gladney Center For Adoption as part of their in-country staff. Having Jana there in Ethiopia, living and working among the children who were in need of families, and being able to ask her hard, honest questions about so many aspects of adoption was really helpful as we ourselves contemplated adoption.

Over the next few weeks and months I emailed and/or talked to anyone I knew who had adopted children themselves to just learn anything I could about personal experiences. During this time I also read ferociously and consumed quite a few books and adoption blogs.

We have friends in our community who have adopted internationally, so we know kids from China, Russia, Guatemala, Bulgaria, and Ethiopia. Given we see international adoption somewhat regularly, contemplating the idea wasn’t completely foreign (hehehe) to us. Though admittedly, PERSONALLY considering the idea felt very weighty. It helped in these months to have good friends to talk openly with about their own experiences in becoming parents to children from around the world. It helped to see that these children were well-adjusted and thriving in loving homes. It helped to see families who already had several biological children adding to their families through adoption too.

Concurrently, our family prayed together and talked alot about what it might look like to add to our household by adoption. Tons of soul-searching and honest, rich conversations about what felt like a huge decision. Once we told our children that we were considering adoption, they were very excited and supportive of the idea. They prayed along with us, and we were able to dialogue with them about their own feelings and questions. This was a precious time and one for which I am very grateful.

We approached very close friends and family asking for their input/prayer as well, in helping us to look at this decision from several different perspectives. People close to us gave us honest and open input and also prayed for us and supported us so kindly.

As we talked to friends who had adopted, or were in process, it became overwhelmingly apparent that aside from one family who used a different agency, every single family we knew had used The Gladney Center for Adoption, located here in Fort Worth, to adopt, no matter where they had adopted from. B/c of Gladney’s excellent reputation in the adoption world, their wealth of experience (been around for over 120 years) and the fact that they were local, we truly never shopped around for another agency to work with. We were absolutely comfortable with the references and experiences of so many families whom we knew and trusted.

March 5, 2010: I request Gladney’s Adoption Information Packet which is a whole lot of information about all the different domestic and international adoption programs Gladney runs. Jay and I pore over this information, wanting to learn as much as we can.

March 15, 2010: We learn that the new adoption laws in Ethiopia are going to mean that families who are adopting will now be required to make two trips instead of just one to complete the process. First time to meet their child and pass court, then a second visit about 6 weeks later to bring their child home. We are discouraged by this development, because it raises the costs quite significantly (an additional $6000 for the second trip’s travel expenses) and means that families have to meet their child without the ability to bring them home right away as their own. Very hard.

April 15, 2010: Tax Day!! Instead of paying our income tax (just kidding, it was already taken care of in March!) we sent $50 and our Initial Information Sheet into Gladney Adoption Agency saying we are interested in starting the adoption process.

April 16, 2010: Announced to our Church Home Group that we have decided to pursue adoption from Ethiopia. (One of our home group families adopted their 5th child, a little boy from Guatemala through Gladney 6 years before!)

April 28, 2010 Hour-long phone orientation with Judy Hayes in the International Department at Gladney.

May 3, 2010:  Jay’s absolutely beautiful “Expecting” post on our blog; see

http://www.hornes.org/2010/05/expecting/

May 7, 2010: Long phone chat in the evening with Jen Morgan of http://morganleapoffaith.blogspot.com/ about her family’s adoption of little Bella. I learned that families who have taken this journey, are in general very passionate about adoption, and are so happy to share with those of us just beginning. I did not know Jen before this, but found her blog through a friend’, and emailed her asking if I could talk to her about toddler adoption, specifically. She visited with me for over two hours, and answered many questions, and shared a lot of their own experiences as Bella joined their family.  I was very grateful for her time.

May 15, 2010:   Friends of ours who are also adopting approach us with a generous gift to apply toward the first of our adoption fees. We are shocked and humbled and so grateful for this provision before we even begin the official application process!

June 3, 2010: Mail request for Application plus $300 to Gladney

June 9, 2010: Receive Gladney Application via email (it went to spam, thankfully I saw it and pulled it out a couple days later!)

June 16, 2010: I visit on the phone with Judy Wadsworth, one of the international adoption Program Assistants at Gladney, complete the “Intake and Service Plan” document with her, and get the green light to begin the “paperchase” for the first part of the process.

June 17, 2010: I contact Kate Sawyer of KBS Dossiers to contract her help in assembling and authenticating our foreign dossier for the adoption. This will cost us an additional $400, but we have been told the experienced oversight while preparing documents for a foreign government is well worth every penny, and that Kate is the best.

*For the month from 6/16–7/16 we do EVERYTHING required for our Gladney Application, plus most of our Dossier Paperwork too: Supporting information regarding our family history, educational history, employment histories, our household income/expenses, doctor’s appointments and letters for the entire family including pets, requests for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, Employer letters, Bank Letters, Insurance Letters, Sketch of our home’s floor plan, Child Preference Profile, Reference Letter requests, and more. (Miscellaneous fees for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports and photos around $250 total)

During this month, I made good friends with the notaries at our local bank here on the corner; I figure by the end of this process we will all be on a first name basis and sending each other Christmas cards during the holidays.

July 2, 2010: Fedex’d contract and first pieces of information plus Service Fee payment ($400) and expense deposit ($200) to Kate Sawyer at KBS.

July 12, 2010: Jay’s passport renewal application is returned to me via mail b/c I forgot to include the old passport in the envelope for renewal. Duh!

July 16, 2010: FedEx’d entire Gladney Application plus 3 groups of supporting paperwork including CIS I-600A application and fee ($670) + fingerprints fee ($160) and docs to Gladney. Pay our $2000 Home Study Fee and our $2250 Ethiopia Program Fee deposit.

July 16, 2010: FedEx’d most of the Dossier docs Kate requested in her “Document Summary”.

July 19, 2010: Mail Jay’s passport application again, this time including the old passport as stipulated, and paying a higher fee of $110 for the renewal (whadya’ know: costs increased in the two weeks’ intervening!).

I have been asked, since we mailed off all that paperwork, “Are you close now? How much longer till you bring her home?”.

The answer is, we are closer, hooray! But, in actuality, we are still a long ways from bringing our girl home.  Like 12-18 months away, most likely. The next steps in the process will be:

Gladney schedules and performs our home study and then puts it into written document form. This entire process will take approximately 6-8 weeks.

Kate Sawyer will continue work on authenticating our legal documents which we have sent to her, and assemble our dossier. Again, several weeks to a couple months for this step.

We need to get our FBI fingerprints done here at the local police office to be submitted with our dossier.  Once we FedEx these prints to the FBI office in West Virginia, it will take up to 13 weeks to get the results back.

After the homestudy is complete, that document is sent along to Foreign Immigration along with the CIS I-600A document mentioned above, where we request permission to bring an internationally adopted child into this country as our adopted daughter. They say that processing time for this step takes about 30 days, but lately it is taking longer because they are revamping how they do the whole thing.

CIS (Immigration) sends us approval and a date for a second set of fingerprints, which we will do locally.

Our completed foreign dossier is sent to Ethiopia, where it is translated and presented for approval to the government there. Gladney in Ethiopia will continue to oversee and advocate for our family throughout this process. I do not know how long from the time the dossier is sent till it is translated and finally approved by the Ethiopian Government. But it’ll take some time….

Once the dossier is approved in Ethiopia, we are officially put on the waitlist for a child, and anxiously await our child referral.

The referral process can take anywhere from about 5 to 11 months, depending on several different things, including number of other waiting families and children available in the age range we have requested.

We are given a referral, accept the referral, and wait for Ethiopia to schedule our date in their courts to legally adopt our daughter.

We travel to Ethiopia for the first trip, meet our daughter, appear in court to legalize the adoption, spend time in the country for a few days.

We return home for about six weeks, unpack, get over jet lag, and repack in anticipation of our second trip.

We receive travel dates for our second and final trip.

We fly to Ethiopia again for several days, this time to pick up our daughter and bring her home to Dallas as part of our family!!

A Boy and His Puppy

Josiah is enjoying life with a puppy in the house. Having someone smaller and younger than he to boss around evidently has a lot of appeal for our littlest guy!

In all seriousness, he tries very hard to help with Sadie: takes her out for potty breaks, throws the ball for her to chase, and tells her “No!” about a gazillion times a day when she breaks house rules by trying to eat something she shouldn’t. (I probably ought to mention in Sadie’s defense that usually the something is a K’nex or Lego toy that Josiah left on the floor, heh.)

He also delights in carrying Sadie around like a sack of potatoes. Poor doggie. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I want him to treat her well, definitely. We’ve always tried to instill in our children a care and respect for God’s creatures, so they know that if we carry or hold them we should do it gently and kindly. On the other hand, I am glad if Sadie is learning to be a tad patient with the younger set, given all the children in both our immediate and extended families, not to mention the many friends whose children spend a lot of time in our house.

Shots like these

are priceless; I love the affection little Josey has for the smallest “baby” in the family!! Aren’t they sweet together?

For All the Scouts Out There Searching for 38 Year-Old Models

The past couple of weeks, my minivan’s air conditioning has been acting up. Sometimes it would cool the car, but most of the time it just blew a lot of hot air. When it became clear that even in almost 100 degree Texas summertime, opening the windows and letting the “breeze” blow in was preferable to using the A/C, we knew it was time to get it into the shop.

Thankfully, Jay purchased an extended warranty some time ago, and this repair will fall under that coverage; what a blessing! Included in our coverage is a rental car, so after Honda checked my feverish van into the shop, a sweet man from the local Enterprise branch drove up to shuttle me over to the rental office so they could issue me a healthy vehicle to drive.

Turns out the pickings are slim this week at Enterprise. No vans nor SUV’s of any variety were available. They offered me a cute little red compact car, which I politely declined given I have four little children to tote around town. Call me uptight, but I would prefer to be able to obey the carseat laws even if I am not driving my own car. The only other options which would seat six people were a Chevy Silverado and a Ford F150. They asked me if either of those would work for our family.

Now, for those of you not  in the know, those, my Friends are trucks. Large trucks. The likes of which yours truly has never driven, nor really ever dreamed of driving.  I called Jay to ask if he might prefer one over the other (thinking he’d probably get a chance to drive it himself), and he said to go for the F150, so like the wonderful wife I am, I asked for the Ford.

Not ten minutes later, a veritable beast of a vehicle drove up in front of us, and my three boys went almost crazy whooping and hollering about how totally cool it was that we were going to get to ride in a humongous truck!  Between the screaming and yelling, and the unpleasant and ever-growing realization that yes, indeed I was going to have to get behind the wheel of this monster and somehow safely ferry my crazy little children home, I started to feel a headache coming on.

We managed to drive the entire 2 miles home, with only a short detour for some ChikFilA, and gallons of milk along the way.  In those two and a half miles, I learned that road lanes are not built for full size trucks. Nor are drive through lanes, or grocery store parking lanes. Or garages: upon arriving home I realized the behemoth would not fit in mine. So I parked it in what used to look like a very long driveway to me, but what is now swallowed up by the big white truck.

Despite the challenges of learning to drive something so much more massive, there is a plus side to all this. One just feels a bit more powerful behind the wheel of a giant truck. For one thing, you sit high up above most other vehicles on the road – ok, yes admittedly I am short enough that I can barely peer over the steering wheel to see the other vehicles on the road, but you get my meaning.  If you can get beyond feeling large and cumbersome, I think it is possible to start feeling big and almost safer because of the heftiness of the truck body itself.

Then of course there is the unbridled delight from the younger set over Mommy’s new set of wheels, temporary though they are. Josiah especially loves calling it “Our new F150!”

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…a few portfolio shots. Because you never know: some talent scout could very well be reading this little ole blog, and maybe, just maybe my truck modeling career will get jump-started! I hear there are a lot of 38-year old, mothers of four who enter the modeling world that way. Kudos to my 11 year old for her fine picture-taking skills!

Addition to the Family

Last Friday, Jay took his first holiday this year from work so we could make a little daytrip to pick up the newest member of the family. Her name is Sadie; she is a fluffy ten-week old Cavapoo, which means she is half Cavalier and half Poodle. They are also known as Cavadoodles and Cavoodles. Either way I think the name is silly, but they are supposed to be great little dogs and after all, it’s not their fault they’ve been dubbed with a goofy name!

After Lucy left us to follow her police dog career, we knew we’d likely be adding a new canine to the family. We’ve loved having the two dogs, and were truly sad that Lucy couldn’t bridge the transition to Jay working again by using the potty outside the house.

Given we’ve learned recently that a couple of our children have dog allergies I (being the mad researcher that I am) checked out some non-shedding, hypoallergenic breeds. We also have come to realize that though we adore big dogs, our home and lifestyle do not necessarily lend themselves to accommodating them as easily.  We are rapidly filling our modest-sized home with children, leaving less space for dogs. We have also loved having the ability to snuggle with our smaller doggie, Sasha on the couch while reading a book or watching a movie, and she sleeps on Abigail’s bed at night, keeping her company which is wonderful. When we run out in the car to do a quick errand, or head out for a short trip, Sasha jumps into the car and goes along. Very transportable.

So…I looked into “Doodles” for starters: Labradoodles and Goldendoodles. They both come in petite sizes, and are supposed to be lovely dogs. Unfortunately, the price tag associated with them is not petite, and we quickly nixed the Doodles.

We thought about another Coton…heck, Jay even joked about cloning Sasha. Again, the Cotons are wonderful dogs, but the puppies come with a pretty hefty price tag.

Sasha is old enough that we were advised if at all possible to try for a younger pup. We consulted with several rescue organizations locally to see what type of pups they might have. In each case, we just couldn’t find the combo of a young, small hypoallergenic dog that seemed happy and lowkey with young children.

A couple of friends own Cavapoos and have shared with us how much they love them.  One friend referred me to a breeder in Oklahoma who came highly recommended. I called and chatted with her on several occasions and learned a lot about the breed. They sounded like the kind of dog we were looking for. We began talking more personally about our families, and were each delighted to learn that we are both pursuing international adoption. She and her family are in process to adopt a sibling group from Haiti. This is a total aside, but was such a neat encouragement to me I just had to share!

While this particular lady’s waiting list was too long to offer us a dog before mid-fall, she was able to help steer me toward a fellow breeder who did have some Cavapoo puppies available to come home early summer as we’d hoped.  I visited this lady’s website and checked out some of the pictures of the pups, but was startled to see that all the black puppies were offered at less than half the price of the other colored dogs. Well I had to find out more about that so I called the breeder and asked her, “Excuse me, but what’s wrong with the black dogs, Ma’am?”

And basically, due to the fact that the black dogs are so much harder to get a good photograph of, they just don’t sell as quickly, especially for today’s puppy buyer, who shops online and often chooses on the basis of looks.  It occurs to me that I have seen whole rescue groups devoted to the cause of black dogs, because they are the hardest to get adopted out of shelters, and sadly, also the color that is most often euthanized. Here is a page that explains the little known but reasonable sounding “Black Dog Syndrome”.

Well, long story a little bit shorter, I spent a couple weeks inquiring about each of her black pups, seeing pictures, and learning about their various personalities, and since the breeder was within driving distance, we decided to just hop in the car and drive all the way to the border of Oklahoma and Kansas!

Of course, Sasha came along for the ride, to help choose her favorite puppy:

We enjoyed meeting the pups…

and chose our sweet little Sadie from the bunch.

Sadie Puppy spent the 5 hour drive home nestled on various children’s laps, content to snuggle.

Snuggling with the Daddy of the family during a stop at Sonic:

We have thoroughly enjoyed our first few days home with her.  She had her first visit to the vet, and received a big thumbs-up! She is currently 4.5 pounds, and is very sweet and playful. In just a few days’ time, she has learned not to fuss in her crate at night, and she is doing really well with her potty training despite being so young.  She has a little basket of toys, and has figured out how to retrieve things from there when she wants to play. Here is one of her pictures we received before we made the trip:

And how is our resident doggie feeling about the new little interloper? Well, let’s say she is tolerating the new addition.  Sadie obviously adores Sasha, and desperately wants to play with her. Sasha hasn’t yet warmed up to the point of playing, but she is doing better each day. Sadie likes to lay down near the bigger dog….this shot is hilarious. It almost looks as if Sasha is thinking, “Really? Is she really going to stay?”

“Ah well, I suppose I’d just as soon make the best of it. SIGH.”

Sasha does seem ok curling up with Sadie, as long as Jay is there as well.

The children are delighted with their new baby, and are all good helpers with Sadie. I have not really tried hard yet to get a great picture of her, but here is what we do have:

My MacGyver of a husband took himself to Home Depot, and within an hour’s time, constructed a wonderful, hinged contraption that allows Sadie access to the back door which is off our den, but which prevents her from having the run of that living area. I’ve said it before, but my hubby is a genius, and I am always so pleased with his innovation!  We think it will look nicer painted white, but here are some pics anyway:

Well, if any of you have experience photographing little black doggies whose eyes blend in with their fur, and whose faces don’t seem to have any depth on camera, maybe due to the solid, darker color…and can weigh in with tips for this novice, I am all ears!! Send any advice you have, pretty please!!

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