Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unexpected Blessing

I had kind of a weird day today. I had three interviews, but none of them were specific to one particular job. The first two were for temp agencies, and they were very positive. I got some encouragement and some solid advice, but no real imminent job prospects. The third was a qualification interview for a major health care provider in our area, but that probably will not be going anywhere. With thousands of applicants for each job, they made it very clear that unless I have exactly the kind of experience they are looking for, I won't even make it past the computer system that does the initial screening. I also followed up on the phone on every job lead I've been tracking and got nowhere...

So I had a strange day in that perspective. High and low, up and down... It is exhausting putting yourself out there over and over and over again.

We met with a credit counselor earlier this week and got a good sense of the pros and cons of the tough decisions we need to make in light of the deficit we're running every month. At the end of that session, we made the decision to liquidate our retirement account. A tough choice to make, but definitely among the least damaging options we are faced with. This morning, we put that plan into action.

Did you ever have that experience where you put on a coat you haven't worn in a long time and there is some cash in the pocket? Well, I had forgotten that almost ten years ago, we set up our retirement accounts where almost a third of it was a joint savings account (not tied to an IRA). I'd totally forgotten that we did that because we stopped funding it in 2007 when our businesses began their declines. Basically, it allowed us to make a withdrawal today that did not incur any tax penalties. We have enough now to make it for another 5 or 6 weeks (longer if we pull the plug on our health insurance - another difficult decision to make). But "rediscovering" that joint account was a great unexpected surprise.

I'm grateful to not have the immediate pressure of the mortgage payment and property tax payment on top of me anymore. But I'm even more grateful for the sense of peace I have about the whole thing right now. Something has got to happen! Right???

Monday, March 29, 2010

One year anniversary

One year ago today, we became parents. My, how it has gone by so quickly!!!

Today we celebrated a year of growth with our girls. Some friends donated a really cool giant pinata, and I put in a couple bags of peanuts and some Tootsie Pops. I took down one of the curtain rods I'd made a few years ago out of thick dowel rod, and let the girls go at it! :)

We celebrated with Jenetta's family and some of the neighbors. I had the girls wear the backpacks they were wearing when we picked them up at the airport (just for nostalgia's sake), but eventually, they got taken off because they were impeding the full destructive motion.

After a while, we did away with the blindfold, too, and just let them have fun.

We wanted to mark the anniversary and let the girls have some extra fun to celebrate it.

We are also reminded to thank all of you that have been supporting us and praying for us. We could not have done this without our support network.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cool things in our family

We've noticed a pretty substantial change in O during the past few weeks, and it has been exciting for us as parents to observe it. Those of you who are parents are probably very accustomed to seeing growth and being proud of it. (Or at least you remember it from when your kids were young). Well, for us, we've been so focused on structure for the girls and so involved with big picture concerns that is has been hard to notice the little details.

But to be completely honest, O has been delayed in many areas by the trauma in her past. They both have, really, but O was definitely impacted more than L has been. There is a reason they love playing with toys that belong to babies and toddlers. Their speech and other developments have been significantly delayed because of all they have been through.

O has been in "survival mode" for a long time. Because of this, her brain really hasn't had time to devote attention to other things. Next week, we will have had the girls for one year, and we are finally starting to see her relax and feel secure. This has allowed her to advance by leaps and bounds in many areas, and it has been really exciting for us to watch! We are proud of her (and tell her that all the time!)

Last weekend, our neighbors had their grandchildren visit for an overnight, so the girls played with them outside for a while after dinner. Their grandaughter is probably 7 or 8, and she had a lot of stuff in the garage. When she saw our girls ride their bikes, she brought over her old princess bike with no training wheels for O to try. O hopped on it and after a few wipeouts, just did it! We were so surprised because she hadn't given any indication that she was ready for this. So this week, I removed her training wheels on her big bike for good, and she has been doing just fine!

But some of the biggest developments we are seeing are in language. She has had more time to devote to writing letters and numbers and coloring. When we first got her, she would scribble for about ten seconds, then tear up the paper and go on to something else. Now both girls sit and color and create a lot. Yesterday, O walks up to us and hands us a pink 3x5 card:

And she says to us, "B - I - B. That spells Bib!" She picked this up from an infomercial about teaching your baby how to read. It brought a big smile to our faces.

She still is challenging to understand at times and her grammar and vocabulary are definitely delayed as well, but now we are finding that when we correct her, she is actually able to process the difference. She is working on the word "before." Mostly it comes out as "-fore" or even "A-fore." Last night, she was asking us a question that used that word, and we watched her mentally check her options before correctly saying "...Before when we went to grandma's..."

This is the kind of stuff we signed up for!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Equestrian Event

This past weekend, I was able to secure a random gig shooting video for an equestrian event in Aguanga, CA. Where is Anguanga you might ask??? Well, it is about 35 min. east of Temecula. (Think Ramona but higher in elevation (so much colder) and harder to get to.)

I got quite a sunburn on my face, but I learned a lot about equestrian events, met some new people, and gained some more videography experience. But mostly, I enjoyed getting paid.

A little bit at a time...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Candelight Vigil at Escondido HS

Tonight we decided to walk down the hill to Escondido HS and take part in a candlelight vigil for the family of Amber Dubois. Amber went missing on Valentine's Day last year and was taken off the street less than a mile from our home. If you haven't heard, her remains were found this weekend, and it appears that she is an earlier victim of the same creep who took Chelsea King in RB who was discovered last week. We have been working with the girls about not talking to strangers, and talking a lot about compassion for others, so we felt that even though most of it was over their heads, we would walk down as a family and pray for Amber's family.

This experience was good for us on so many levels. First, I've had a really heavy heart for the past week, and just to do something active was positive for me. Emotional things like this really affect me, and although many friends have told me that is a good thing because it makes me sensitive, it is sometimes hard to function under a cloud of grief. I could never be a counselor - there is no way I would be able to seperate myself from the pain of others.

There has been a thought that our pastor shared with us yesterday that has really helped me today. It is common in our culture to call for a moment of silence at times like these. He was suggesting that we have no need to be silent - we have a God that we can cry out to. So at the moment of silence today, I prayed. I know God is in control and involved in our experiences - even when things are awful, flawed, imperfect, or ruined - He is still there.

I was also moved by our girls' response to the event. When we got there, they were too short to see much of anything except the backs of the people in front of us. So they just stood there and sang "Jesus Loves Me" together a few times. I thought about telling them to be quiet since everyone was just standing there silently waiting for the family and the officials to talk to us. But when they got to the line "little ones to him belong..." I was touched by their innocence (and how Amber and Chelsea belong to God now, too), and I looked at Jenetta, and we just let them sing away not caring what anyone else thought.

Back home at bedtime, O prayed for Amber's family. She asked God that they would not be so sad, and that they would get a new kid and do fun stuff together. Even though pretty much all day long O had been testing us and generally being an annoying punk, I couldn't help but smile and give her a hug and pray for her safety and thank God that we have two girls to protect and teach and raise.

There were a lot of media people at the event. The TV trucks from LA and San Diego took up most of the right lane on Broadway in front of the school. The front area was filled with reporters and camera people and newspaper photographers. Here is a photo that one of them took tonight:

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