We Can’t Take Them All

Boys Website - almostLast night Jessica sent me a link to a family in Minnesota. Four boys in need of adoption. In 30 days they go back into the system and they will, in all likelihood be split up. My immediate reaction was, “we need to call on these kids right away!” And it’s very possible that we will call about them. They are EXACTLY the situation we are looking for. A sibling group waiting for a forever home.

Naturally, the first thoughts that go through our head are things like “do we have a place to put them yet?” (no). “Can we afford four more (adoptions aren’t exactly inexpensive), right now?” (no). “Are we ready?” (no). And then, we ask ourselves, “why not?” (well, why not?).

These kids need a home. These kids need love and guidance. One of them is about to enter into his life’s next chapter. If he goes off to college, which is his dream, he’ll discover holidays with no place to go and the separation from his siblings will psychologically impact him in ways I can only imagine.

And then I think about the fact that if we don’t take these in, there will be others that come later. There will always be more that come later. And while “there’s always next time” is typically something we say to console ourselves when we miss out on an opportunity, in a situation such as this, it just simply makes me sad. The painful truth is that we can’t take them all, but even more painful is that there will always be more.

Attic Update (Photos)

East End of Hallway

East End of Hallway

Bedroom 11

Bedroom 11

Bathroom 2

Bathroom 2

Bedroom 10

Bedroom 10

Bedroom 9

Bedroom 9

Bathroom 1

Bathroom 1

Bedroom 8

Bedroom 8

West End of Hallway

West End of Hallway

Well, it’s been a bit of a struggle but things are finally progressing on the attic. When they removed the old subfloor and the electricians came in, it was discovered that a lot of the knob and tube wiring was bare. Add to that that much of it was actually just strung THROUGH the blown in insulation and this place could have been a fire just waiting to happen. All it would have taken was for some of that insulation to get wet and hit those bare wires and anything could have happened.

It took a bit of time for them to re-do that electrical, which involved us being without any stair lights on either staircase for about five weeks. This would not be a HUGE deal except for the fact that when I have to go downstairs with the baby at 4:00 am, I had to be extra careful navigating the steps.

Once done, the carpenters were then able to come in and frame out the attic. It’s hard to see the layout in photos, but I’m including several just to show the progress. The framing is done and now the electrician is back to install the wiring throughout. We had quite a battle with the electrical contractor because they were sending the electrician out about once a week for a few hours. What we needed was a full week of his undivided attention. It took a few calls from Jessica and a couple from me (including a face to face meeting with the owner here at the house) to get it through to them that they were holding up the project. At this point, we are now guaranteed that the electrician will be here every day until his task is complete. Then it’s drywall and finishes. All in all, about another five to six weeks and the attic will be completed.

It’s been a challenge, but we’re getting through it and when we’re done, we will have 11 bedrooms total in the house. Plenty of room for the kids we have to have a nice, stable environment in which to grow up along with room to take in a few more! So if you haven’t visited our GoFundMe Campaign yet, feel free to click on the link to the right. Truly, every contribution helps. And if you can’t contribute financially, sharing our story with others doesn’t cost a cent! 🙂

So I Started A New GoFundMe Campaign

As you know, we ran a fairly successful crowd-fund campaign called “Tilt the Attic” a couple of months ago. We needed $70,000 to reach our goal, which is about half of the total bill for renovating the attic. We collected approximately 10% of that $70,000. Not bad, I’d say, considering people donated with no desire to get anything in return. I’d say that’s worth cheering.

However, we are still working hard at raising the rest of the money. So far, we’ve written checks for about $90,000 of the original $140,000. However, once the electricians got into the attic, they discovered several fire hazards which required all of the wiring in the house be replaced, to the tune of $17,000 (they actually knocked it down from $24,000).  This, of course, tends to be par for the course with older homes.

Even though the Tilt campaign ended, I immediately started a GoFundMe campaign but debated for some time as to whether or not I really wanted to go back and do what feels like “begging” for money. Both Jessica and I have always believed that if you want or need something, you figure out a way to earn it, but always be willing to help others in need. So, asking others for help is pretty difficult for us. But this is not about us. This is about giving kids stability. It’s about giving kids the love and lessons they need to go out into the world and make it a better place. These are things we know we can do and (I think) we’re pretty good at it. I might even go so far as to say it could very well be our calling. So, essentially, we have to put our pride aside and just go for it. Kids don’t get any younger (and we adults certainly don’t!), so the sooner we can act with them, the better off they are!

With all the above said, and after careful consideration. I have decided to actually publicly announce the campaign. And I would encourage you to consider it or, even if the thought moves you but you are not in a position to help financially, share it with people you know. A little word of mouth can go a LONG way and doesn’t cost a thing.

You can find information about the campaign here. And we would really appreciate any help you can give.

Historic Home Tour

This past weekend, our home was on the neighborhood tour of historic homes. Our community is a somewhat unique community in Milwaukee because while it is in an urban area, the people who live here are very close and work hard to preserve both the history while, at the same time, always endeavor to welcome new people and new ideas. In many ways, it reminds me of the WordPress Community. People here really CARE about the success, livelihood and happiness of its residents. We’ve only been here for less than two years and I have found it amazing that our little neighborhood adopted us so quickly.

Because we moved into this house and it needed quite a bit of updating (it was, after all, 115 years old at the time we moved in) and even more repair, people have been watching our progress with great interest. So, when they started planning their annual home tour, they asked that we be a part of it. To be honest, while we have gotten to know various neighbors, we really have not had many over because to us, the house never feels like it’s *done* and we’ve had two years of contractors here constantly (but not consistently; that’s another story).

For the tour, I decided to do a slideshow so our guests could see the progress we’ve made on the house. And, since the attic was not done, Jessica and I decided it would be a perfect opportunity for us to show what we were doing in the attic and why we are doing it.

We had about 300 people come through our house Saturday and every time, Jessica would greet them at the door, welcome them to our house and then proceed to tell different parts of the same story about how she grew up in foster care. I probably heard her tell the story 50 times and not once, did I get tired of hearing it. It’s a pretty incredible (albeit sad with a happy ending) story about how a person can overcome so much adversity and still end up on her feet. Ya. . . she’s pretty amazing. And several times throughout the day, I caught people standing and watching one of the three TVs on which we had the movie showing, captivated by the photos of the house as well as the narrative.

Our hope is that, while the people came to catch a glimpse of what it’s like to live in old homes, they walked away with more than simply that. Old houses are pretty cool, but a real home is even cooler!

You can view the movie if you like. And if you want to help, we’ve just started a new crowd fund on gofundme.com so you can pitch in for the attic. Our goal is to make room to take in another sibling group.

Day 1: You Can’t Make an Open Faced Grilled Cheese Sandwich on a Panini Maker

Day One. The day Jessica leaves to pick up her mom to move her up here. It’s Thursday. It’s also the first time since the new arrivals that I will have the kids.  The plan was simple. The plan would work. Jessica was to leave first thing in the morning so she could get as far as possible before she needed to pull over, do her end of day work, and/or find a place to stay for the night. Ashley would show up early so that I could take the kids to school. The plan was simple. The plan would work.

But then. . .

Reality.

Things seemed to be off to a good start. For the first time ever, all the kids were up and active by 6:30 am. This never happens. typically at 6:30, I’m up with the baby and Jessica is getting out of bed. Eli gets up somewhere around 6:40 and Big A, somewhere between 6:40 and 7:00. At 7:00 I almost always have to go up and wake Brenna up. And at 7:05. And at 7:10. And 7:15. ‘N’ is a crapshoot. Sometimes he’s up at 6:30 and sometimes he sleeps until 8:00. But I digress . . .

So, kids were all up. The morning routine was in full swing. Breakfast consumed. Everyone happy. Jessica had the lunches made and backpacks packed. Typically, Jessica is the one to take the kids to school, but it was decided that today I would do it so she could do her last minute packing and then when I got home from taking them to school, I’d clean out the Armada and she’d be good to go.

So, as I was saying, things were running smoothly. Brenna ran to get something and decided she and ‘N’ would play a quick game of chase and that’s when I heard it. Crying from the other room. It seems that while they were playing chase, something jumped up from the ground, tripped Brenna and she banged her knee up. By the time I got to look at it, it was already bleeding and showing signs of a bruise. So, I tell Eli and ‘A’ to go out to the garage and I would unlock it from the house. They go outside and we bandage Brenna up (who is still crying).

By the time I get outside, ‘A’ and Eli are fighting. Apparently, Eli went to open the garage door and ‘A’ pushed his hand aside. Then Eli pushed ‘A’s hand aside and the argument ensued. By the time they were in the car and on their way to school, all three of them were in tears and I had already had enough for a full day, never mind the fact that the day had just begun. The two older kids have been having a real problem getting along lately and it only takes the slightest thing to get them into an argument. Ohhhh. . . I can’t wait until they’re teens (only 3 years away).

At school, they went their separate ways, I dropped Brenna off as she limped into class, went to the boys’ rooms and said goodbye to them and then headed back home to finish up the part where I clean out the car so Jessica can head on her trip. Ten minutes later I was done. At this point, it was around 8:30. The next part of the plan was that I would walk Barcelona, get back, feed her and then head back to the school to pick ‘A’ up for a 9:30 doctor appointment. The plan was simple. The plan would work.

As I walked into the house, I noticed that Jessica was on the phone. “Yes, I am sure it’s around here somewhere. Yes, we’ll look for it. I think from now on, it would be a good idea if you didn’t borrow books from your friends and maybe just borrowed from the library. You DO have a library card after all.”

Turns out, ‘A’ had borrowed a book from a friend (who borrowed it from the library) and seemed to have misplaced it. He was to return it today, so instead of walking the dog, the next 25 minutes were spent scrambling around looking for the book. At 8:55, with both of us looking everywhere we could think of (in the car, upstairs, downstairs, under everything in the house, Jessica announced that she had found it. Ok – I have about 8 minutes to get the dog walked and fed before I have to run to pick ‘A’ up for his appointment. No problem.

I know this sounds funny, but we have a dog that poops and pees on demand. That’s right, she’s so well trained that we can say, “Barcelona, go potty” and she’ll break her heel and go potty. Unfortunately, she won’t poop and pee in the same place. So, out the front door we run, giving Jessica a hug and kiss goodbye, I suddenly realize I forgot to pack the tow hitch, run to the garage, get the hitch, throw it in the car and off I go with B-dog. As usual, she immediately pees in front of the house. Then I walk her a little bit to another of her favorite territories and tell her to go potty. 30 seconds later she’s done her business. I go to grab a poop bag from the little dispenser we have on the leash. Oh ya. I forgot to reload the poop dispenser. We’re going to be late.

Then I spot it. A plastic bag that someone threw on the ground. Sad to say, but that corner gets its share of litter but today that litter saved my bacon. I grab the bag. Grab the refuse and run to the house. Get inside, feed B and then I’m out the back door to get ‘A’ for his appointment.

“Why are you always in a hurry Mr. Marc? You should get here earlier for my doctor appointments so you’re not always rushed.” That was what I was greeted with when I arrived at the classroom. And sometimes, explaining to a 10-year old that you’re late because a certain ten year old did not put his book in a good place and the baby took it and hid it under the pump organ does not go over so well. Sometimes, the 10-year old seems to think that just because he remembered where he put it means that it was put in its correct spot. Sometimes, 47-year old’s patience has gotten thin enough that a fast paced walk/talk/lecture can be heard down the halls of the school.

And sometimes . . . with all that, the lights all turn green and the appointment is made with a minute to spare.

At the appointment, I finally got a moment to catch my breath as ‘A’ went in for his session. It was needed. And it went by fast. But by then, I had relaxed a bit. I knew Jessica was on her way, and I could get home and work. I took ‘A’ back to school, dropped him off, got home, sat at my desk and worked mostly uninterrupted. I had nothing going until 3:00. And that was simply going to be a planning meeting with the contractor and electrical contractor to get on the same page and look at the plan going forward.

We were supposed to have our weekly company meeting at noon, but it was decided that a couple of people were at parts of their project where it would be better if we pushed the meeting until later so they could show what they had done. 10:00 PM CST was the decided upon time. We have five people working at ServerPress now and family considerations are always among the top things we think about when we plan and 10:00 seemed good. My kids would be in bed and I’d have time to chill for a bit.

By 2:00, I hit a wall. I was ready for a nap. I thought about it for about 30 seconds when we came across a particularly difficult customer service ticket. Gregg, who does, probably 90% of the customer service, had run into a snag trying to get a website deployed and asked if I’d help. So, I took a look at the website archive and discovered that it was riddled with viruses. I was able to get it cleaned up and went to deploy at about 2:45. This was a fairly large site with a lot of files, so I knew that it would take a while for the files to get sent up. So, starting the transfer, I then met with the contractors. Our General Contractor could tell that I was feeling a bit under the gun and informed me that I had recently been added to his prayer group. I assume that he’s praying that we’ll be able to pay him for all the work he’s doing. He should.

After he left, I discovered Eli was home but the rest of the kids were gone. Ashley decided to take them out for ice cream but Eli opted to stay home. He wanted to hang out with me but I had to finish that customer deployment. The files had gone up so I only needed to do a couple quick things and boom, the site was up.

Right about then, everyone was back. Ashley left, I asked what everyone wanted and it was decided that I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. We have a panini maker. I have made several sandwiches in the panini maker. I know that in order to successfully make a sandwich in a panini maker  that a minimum requirement is a top piece of bread and a bottom piece of bread. The don’t have to be fully slices, but in all cases, you need bread at the top and bread at the bottom. There is no getting around this simple fact. There is no futzing with the system. But apparently, I don’t know this.

I had my assembly line going. Two pieces of bread buttered. Two slices of cheese unwrapped. Throw the bottom piece of bread in, butter side down, throw in the two slices of cheese, put top piece of bread on, close lid. Repeat. It’s really not that difficult. And I was doing great. Until sandwich number three. Step one: Throw in the bread. Step two: throw on the cheese. Step three: close the lid. ACK!

The lid had only been closed for less than five seconds. It’s amazing how quickly Kraft American Cheese Singles can melt (they’re not really cheese anyway).

“stupid. Stupid! STUPID!!!” could be heard from the kitchen. “We don’t say stupid” could be heard from the living room. But still, the kids needed to eat.

So, figuring out that you can, indeed, clean melted cheese off of a hot non-stick surface with only a few minor burns, I was back in action a few minutes later repeating to myself, “Step one: bottom piece of bread. Step two: cheese. Step three: TOP piece of bread. Step four: close lid.”

The good news is that the sandwiches were enough of a hit that they were gone in no time and seconds were asked for.

Then, Brenna came in and asked if she could have dessert. I explained that since she had had ice cream with Miss Ashley that dessert was out of the question. The argument then commenced, “but please daddy?”
“No”

“But I want dessert!”
“No”

“Daddy!”
“You know the deal. No arguing on things like this. Please go upstairs until you’re ready to talk about things calmly”

20 minutes later, this is what I found:
20150521_174422

Yes. I am pretty sure she was tired. It’s been a long week.

Unfortunately, I had to wake her up. It was time for baths. ‘A’ had taken his shower. Eli was to take his in the morning and it was now Brenna’s turn. So, I ran the water and, with no argument (which is unusual), she took her bath, made it quick and it looked like the night-time routine was going to go fairly easy. Now, keep in mind, this is the first time I have had all five kids to put to sleep in one shot. I have had to do four before and by the time the fifth got home,  Jessica would be back to also help close out the night. This is an important thing to keep in mind for a bit later (yes, there is a later).

First things first. ‘N’ to get his pajamas on. I then put him out in the front upstairs room watching Daniel Tiger. Next thing, blow dry Brenna’s hair. MAN that kid has a lot of hair and MAN does it take a long time to blow dry it. And MAN, did it used to take ME that long when I had long hair? (I think the answer is yes).

With Brenna then in her room, I turn off the big TV and put ‘N’ in his bed. The kids are allowed about 1/2 hour of time in their rooms before lights out to do what they want. With ‘N’ this usually means watching something on his tablet. So, I put Daniel Tiger on his tablet, tuck him in and move on to put the baby to sleep. 10 minutes later, ‘A’ is asleep and in his bed. I then go into Brenna’s room to have our evening conversation and say goodnight. Then Eli and our evening conversation and say goodnight. Then ‘A’ and our evening conversation and say goodnight. Ahhh. All kids in bed. That wasn’t too bad! Now I’ll let the dog out so she can do her business and get fed.

Time to relax for about an hour and a half and write a blog post.

And then, at 9:15 it hits me. I NEVER SAID GOODNIGHT TO ‘N’!!!

I check the camera and sure enough, there he is. Laying in bed. Happy as a clam watching Daniel Tiger. Ear to ear grin. If you’ve seen ‘N’ you know he has a smile that melts your heart even if he IS up an hour and fifteen minutes later than he should be. So, upstairs I went. Shut down his tablet and ten minutes later he was fast asleep.

Whew!

Day one was a challenge but since no one got seriously injured or died, I’ll call it a win. I’ve always been amazed at the work that goes into being a single parent and they have always had my respect. AND, I know that day one was just me establishing my own routine but still, thinking of all those single parents who do this day-in, day-out? My hat’s off to you.

And maybe, just maybe, I should do something really nice for Jessica when I go on my business trips. Thinking cap on.

‘N’ Part Two

Nazire B&WA few months ago, I posted about ‘N’. After he came to stay with us, we knew that there were things that were definitely not “right” but in many ways, we had a hard time trying to figure out exactly what they were. Without a doubt, we knew he was, at the very least, developmentally delayed. When he came to live with us at three years old, he barely had any vocabulary and would only mumble words things that could not be understood. Beyond that, it was rare that he would even point to something when you tried to explain that you didn’t understand what he was saying. These are both behaviors that, in my experience, are unusual. Typically, a child will at least point to what they want or are trying to say, or make an effort to get their meaning across. ‘N’ was different. When we would explain that we did not understand and to show us, he would not get frustrated, but he also would not try. He would just repeat his mumbling over and over.

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So Much Gratitude for Our ‘Tilt the Attic’ Rock Stars

I’ve been really busy lately. Between the house full of kids and the travel and the fact that, well, the snow is gone, I have not really made the time to post much. There’s a lot to write about and I do have some posts started but I thought that, since there are only 19 days left in our crowd funding campaign, I’d take a few minutes to thank those of you who have contributed. I’m going to do it individually, but all at the same time (if that makes sense). Because we appreciate each and every donation, no matter how big or small (we know that you gave or did what you could and that is, as they say, AMAZE-BALLS), I’m going to thank you all in order of the contributions but not list the contribution. Truly, every single penny (or dollar) helps! [Read more…]

Just Wanted to Share This Link

This is an article written by a social worker and the tragic story of the foster child, “Steven” that she did not adopt. It blows my mind that in Milwaukee County alone, there are about 2,000 new fosters in the system according to the place we are going through to get our foster to adopt license. That’s a LOT of kids and a lot of potential “Stevens.”

Sometimes it feels like what we’re doing is amazing and then sometimes it feels as though what we’re doing is such a small drop in the bucket. Times like that, we think about this quote: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”