Thursday, September 20, 2012

Project Zero

Today was one of those days . . . it started with a root canal, there were some bright spots (lunch with my mom), but mainly, it was one of those days that felt like a root canal--fighting kids, frustration trying to get some stuff finished up around the house, and I'm trying not to give into a cold, but by late afternoon, it always seems to be winning. So at 5:45 this evening, I was not excited to be loading my kids back into the car to head to (of all places to go with a headache) Larry's Pizza.

Then we got there and my attitude was quickly readjusted. We weren't at Larry's to meet my parents or some friends or just to enjoy an evening as a family. We were there to meet the foster child we've been paired with in a mentorship program. The program matches kids who are in the foster care system and are waiting to be adopted. These kids' parents' rights have been permanently terminated and they are very aware that they are available for a forever family but are still waiting.

Right. Finding throw pillows for my bed suddenly seems trivial, very, very trivial.

Our sweet girl (I will call her A here to protect her) has been in the system for 6 years. I'm still fuzzy on all I'm allowed to say, but she hasn't been living with Daddy Warbucks waiting for him to locate her real parents. And when we met her, she looked at her case worker and said, "Where is my adoptive family? I'm ready to meet them. I really want to be adopted."

Broke my heart.

Later, her case worker told me that she was in the final stages of being adopted when something happened and the family wouldn't commit to her anymore. Can you even imagine? The one thing you want more than anything is handed to you and then yanked away. And you're in middle school. And you have been abused and abandoned. And it seems like everyone at school has at least one parent that will be there past their 18th birthday. And the house you live in today might not be the one you live in tomorrow.

A root canal sounds like a spa day compared to the life A calls normal.

Project Zero used to be called Pulaski County Adoption Coalition (i think). They are working to raise awareness about adoption and their biggest goal is to have NO adoptable child waiting in foster care for his/her family. Go to their website: and learn more about them. It's an AMAZING organization created and driven by foster moms who decided fostering and adopting wasn't all they could do (though they are still doing those as well).

About a year ago, I read a book called Kisses from Katie . . . I ignored my family for a couple of days because I couldn't put it down. Basically, Katie is around 24 now and is living in Africa running a nonprofit organization and caring for the very poor and the very sick and raising the 13 girls she has taken in. It got to me. Then I read a few more books that also got to me. I started wondering what we could do to make a difference. I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but I wanted to foster or adopt or something. And after a lot of discussion and prayer and wondering and talking, Josh and I still weren't sure what we were supposed to do. I mean, the Bible calls ALL of us to care for the orphans. Then, "randomly", I got a call from a girl (lady, woman, whatever, she's my age and I still say girl) who was starting a program through Project Zero. It was a step down from foster care and rather than try to explain it, I'll let you read what their website says about it:

Mission Statement
The mission of Project Zero's Mentor Program is to bring caring individuals from our community and unite them with adoptable children growing up in foster care.  We want to provide each child with a mentor to support and encourage them through various transitions in their life.
The Need
Arkansas currently has 500 children available for adoption through DCFS; 160 reside in Pulaski County.  Our children need stability and permanency.  Many foster children spend time in shelters or group homes, and often transition from placement to placement.  They struggle with the lack of stability and consistency.  We feel mentors can provide this stability that our children so desperately need.
Program Information
Project Zero has created a one on one mentoring program to unite adoptable children with caring individuals.  The program will provide the child with a long-term, stable support system.  The process consists of completing an application, performing background checks, and In Home Consultation, and a staffing with DCFS.  Project Zero will walk you through every step and be there to answer all of your questions.
For additional information or to get involved in this exciting opportunity, please contact Project Zero's Mentoring program director Amy Smith at
Amy had barely finished telling me about the program before I was saying, "YES! YES! This is exactly where we are right now. Yes! Send me the info, please!!!" I was on cloud 9 because it felt like a perfect fit. It has taken several months to go through the paper work and the red tape, but tonight, we finally met A, the sweet little girl that we get to love on. We do not (as of now) feel like we are called to adopt her and the amazing people at Project Zero and DHS are not pressuring us to. Our job, our privilege is to love her and provide some stability and affection and prayer and support while she waits for her forever family.  And it's not always going to be easy--I know--the heartache and the logistics of adding someone to our family and schedule are going to be challenging. But, oh man, she is worth it. We get to tell her that God loves her and then we get to SHOW her His love with fun things like skating and shopping and going to the Museum of Discovery. We will get to celebrate birthdays and accomplishments and hold her hand when she moves foster homes again. We get to pray for her and beg God to bring a forever family to her (even though those in the program say it is highly unlikely she will be adopted because of her age).

So here's my challenge to you--do you have a couple of hours every week or once a month to give to a child who needs some stability in his/her life? Can you be a cheerleader for someone who is on a team they didn't choose to be on? Can you walk through life with a precious child who has been broken by her own parents and is floating around in a broken system hoping against hope to feel whole and wanted and loved? Maybe you don't feel like fostering or adoption is right for you, but you want to give more than money towards the orphans around you. Think about mentoring.

When we left tonight, A said she wanted to come home with us. Her case worker and I explained (again) that's not the way this relationship works and she seemed to accept that and was smiles and hugs as we waved goodbye. I felt like I was going to throw up. She barely knew us, but she wants to be wanted so badly. Later, as I laid in bed with Sascha, I felt all these emotions swirling around me--sadness for A, gratefulness for our life, a strong urge to protect my kids yet a compulsion to carefully expose them to the real world around them. And I wondered, "Why us?" Why did God choose for my kids to be born to 2 parents who love them immensely and want the best for them? Why did A's family mistreat her so badly and consistently that she would be taken from them and sent to live with strangers because that was the better situation?

I don't know all the answers. I know that I am grateful and convicted and that somewhere in my Bible it says something along the lines of, to whom much is given, much is expected. And it also tells us to care for the least of these. I'm not going to change the world by taking A rollerskating. Heck, I'm not even guaranteed to change her life. But I will go down trying and pray that one day when she is a vet or a teacher or a lawyer like she dreams of now, she will know that the Bass family loves her.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sassy is 4 . . . sniff, sniff, sniff

I really am so, so thankful to have a happy, healthy, thriving little girl. I have enough kids, enough friends, and read enough blogs to know that it is a gift and a miracle and a blessing.

That being said (imagine the most pitiful voice ever), "WHY DOES MY BABY HAVE TO GROW UP?!" I guess because Sascha is the last, every milestone is a little more bittersweet. (Of course some milestones are also a little more exciting . . . NO MORE POTTY TRAINING EEEEVVVVEEERRRR, etc.) This week, however, I've been sentimental and a little teary. Four. That's a big one to me. Three is still toddlery . . . still talking disjointedly, and my 1st 3 kids were still in diapers to some degree on their 3rd birthdays. 3 was still kind of babyish. But 4 . . . nope, 4 is preschool. 4 is a big kid. When Caroline turned 4, I was pregnant with Bo and when Tru turned 4, I was pregnant with Sascha, and when Bo turned 4, I had a 2 year old. But poor Sascha has to live with the curse of reminding me that my baby years are behind me, that life is moving forward to a new and exciting and fun phase, and that we are leaving behind years of sweet and memorable and amazing moments with littles.

Yesterday, we blew it out! We opened presents, ate at Cracker Barrel, shopped, went to the movies, got cupcakes, went to Razorback Pizza where we ate pizza, cake, played games and opened more presents. And we showered her with kisses all day. She was SOOOOO excited and told everyone she saw, "I four today, it's my birthday." Adorable and exhausting and fun!

I can't remember what time Tru has karate each day, I forget why I walk into a room, and sometimes, I look up in my car, and don't recall one moment of the drive. BUT, I can remember smells and emotions and vivid details from each of my kids' births. Sascha's day was no exception. The night before, uncertain of gender or names, Josh and I sat around and talked about who the little peanut in my belly was going to be. Josh was CONVINCED she was another boy, so he "generously" agreed to let me choose the name if it was a girl. (Side note, he had picked the other 3 kids' names!) We woke up early the next morning and were out the door by 5:30 a.m.

By lunch time, this precious little bundle was in my arms. The overwhelming joy I felt hearing her cries is indescribable. Second to that joy, was the bliss in hearing Bryan say, "It's a GIRL!!" I cried and told Josh, "I didn't realize how much I wanted her to be a girl!!" Then Bryan asked, "So, who is this?" and I knew that I was looking at my sweet Sascha Jane. I didn't care that no one else had ever caught my passion for that name or that no one knew how to spell it--she was Sascha Jane. And I laugh at least once a week at how PERFECT that name fits her! (Moment of truth, I googled her name a couple of times to make sure Sascha was the way I wanted to spell it!)

 I was also pretty stinkin' sure that our little family was finally complete. 

Sascha, you not only completed our family, you have filled it with laughter and adventure and sass and love. You embrace life in a way I wish I could emulate, and then bottle and sell. We all need a little Sassy in us. You aren't afraid to tackle scary things or hard things (as long as it's not an automatic flushing toilet). You can make friends with anyone and could talk to a wall. You have passion and determination that are next to impossible to move, and while there are times (like at Target or a restaurant or pretty much anywhere else in public) that your stubborn nature is humbling, I pray that we can harness it and use it for good and for God. I see big things in your future--you are loved and adored by so many and could charm the socks off of anyone. I love to watch you dance and listen to you sing in your bed. I love how you will try to eat anything we put in front of you. Your imagination is amazing--you entertain me as much as you are entertaining yourself. I am so jealous and inspired by your resolve to be yourself and I think it's great that no one can influence your fashion or your opinions. Successful people stand out in a crowd without trying and that's you. You can read people really well (especially me) and seem to know how to work the room, and despite being babied around here, you have learned to care for those smaller than you and are a baby favorite with Collins and Davis. Caroline and Tru and Bo all fight over you, and I take some small solace and victory in knowing that for a little bit longer, I am still your favorite. Being your mommy is one of the biggest gifts and blessings in my life. And those chubby little arms can choke me with hugs for forever as far as I am concerned. I am super thankful for this year just me and you. I promise that while I will always mourn these lasts, I will never hold you back from launching forward, because, girl, you are going places and I don't want to miss it! I love you, sweet Sascha Jane. You are exactly who God created you to be and I love that you are sweet and spicy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I once heard someone say that motherhood is not for the faint of heart.

Can I get an amen?

It is SO not for the faint of heart, instead . . .

It's smiling through clenched teeth at the old lady in grocery store who tells you (over the screams of your child) to "enjoy every minute because it goes so fast" and praying she's right, only to peek in at that same sleeping child hours later and beg God to make it slow down.

It's trading in your cute, clean car for a big, messy, smelly suburban.

It's knowing hurt and happiness and fear on levels you couldn't have imagined existed.

It's realizing you are completely capable of going nuts on a kid who hurts your baby (or toddler or elementary schooler or middle schooler).

It's the fulfillment of every "will never" that you have made since childhood . . . I will never say that to my kids, my kids will never act like that in Target, I will never annoy people with kid pictures and stories, I will never admit my parents were right.

It's willing away tears and forcing a smile to convince them that everything is ok even though you aren't convinced yourself.

It's doing just about anything for a smile.

It's trusting God with the most precious thing you have ever been given.

It's dying to get a break from them and feeling homesick as soon as you are alone.

It's realizing you will never sleep as deeply, watch the news the same, pray as intently, love as purely.

It's being thankful for all the hurts and mistakes you had and made if they might help your child avoid similar ones, or, at the very least, know that you really do understand.

It's feeling pain for strangers because, no matter what the differences, there is a unifying bond shared by moms.

It's knowing the difference between the I'm mad and I'm sad and I'm hurt cries.

It's being willing to be the crazy mom at the doctor to hear them say there is nothing wrong.

It's simultaneously hating that your child has challenges that not everyone else has and knowing at your core you wouldn't change a thing about him.

It's understanding God and His love and His grace and His mercy in a new and overwhelming way.

It's the best, worst, easiest, hardest, most unnatural, yet intuitive job I have ever had.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beach part deux

Pretty sure I have a decent case of adult onset ADD these days . . . I start unloading the dishwasher and think about the laundry and pull clothes out of the dryer only to remember I need to send an email and somehow, usually end up tripping over the open dishwasher and thinking bad words as I rub my shin and try to remember what I came in the kitchen for in the first place.

The beach part 2 blog is no exception. I fully intended on writing this the very next day, but . . . SQUIRREL! (Only people who have seen Up can truly appreciate that.)

So . . . we loaded the burb back up (this time with a pack-n-play and minus dance costumes) and headed to Moultrie, GA to see Josh's side of the family. We were all well (yay) and excited to spend a few days in Mo-town before heading back to the beach (ah, what a hard life we were living).

But, alas, the curse of the sick followed us and poor John Tyler was running 102 fever by dinner. Such a bummer. Sweetest kid ever, though, because until you picked him up and burned your hands (it got up to 104 I think), you would never have known he was sick. And, this is the gospel truth, I was so wanting him to figure out that Aunt Rachel is the bomb (or wants to be the bomb aunt) that I even shared a Frostie with his sick self. I figure at 11 months, ice cream is a great bribery tool.

We had fun seeing friends and family in Georgia and after a couple of days there, we repacked and reloaded and made our way to Amelia Island. The weather was great, the beach was quiet and fun, and the company was (of course) awesome. We played games and body surfed and boogie boarded with waves that were taller than all of us. Josh, Will, Megan and I spent a morning stuffing grapes into our faces and crying laughing at how we kind of looked like Whos from Whoville. We bonded over some unwelcome house guests and the maintenance men the resort sent to help escort our furry friends out. We ate too much and Megan and I got a great massage. We enjoyed the people so much both weeks, that I only busted out one of the three books I brought one time and I didn't get more than 2 pages in before deciding it was more fun to hang out.

John Tyler's fever went away the day before we left, but he was a blast and a doll the whole time anyway. It was a great week and we were very sad to leave!!

 Frostie time

 best buds with big muscles

 Josh and the kids don't like when I put them in matching outfits for the beach or Christmas--so I trick them and pack blended outfits . . . hahahaha

 aren't we purty?

 The Southwells

 Mimi and Grandpa

 sweet kiddos and fun times

Johnny T with his Uncle Josh

Friday, September 7, 2012


I. Love. Routine. I will go ahead and fess up to the fact that I like a plan and some realistic expectations. I have been known to make a trip folder with directions, confirmation numbers, packing lists, etc. So, as much as I love summer and I am learning to relax (and yes, I realize how pitiful that sounds), I get a little giddy for some routine.

I also kind of love the smells of fall and the feel of a cool, crisp autumn morning. I yearn for that first Saturday of the season that it actually feels like football weather.

Well, lucky me, because post-Labor Day around here means routine. (And hopefully, before too long, it will also mean cooler weather. I am almost insulted to see 100 degree temperatures in the month of September!) We are starting with regular dance classes, new karate schedule, school is feeling normal and not jolting . . . we are moving towards my fashion happy place--sweatshirts, scarfs, sweaters, jeans and boots. Hooray for Fall!!

And, yay, Caroline was able to be at school all week! That cough was awful. Honestly, it was one of the sickest times I have seen her and she told me she had moments where she thought she would never feel better again. There were times during her week off that (minus the fact that she was sick), I enjoyed her being home . . . I love my Care Bear and it was nice to cuddle with her sometimes and watch a Baby Story on TLC. But, it has been great to get her back in school and (for the first week of the new year) start to figure out our new normal. Like today, I went on a walk with my sister after all the peeps were dropped off (stroller in tow, of course) and then Sassy and I hit up Target and the car wash and then came home to do some house work and cuddle in the big chair in Mommy's room to watch Max and Ruby. The bunnies used to drive me crazy, but I have to say, as my family has grown, I believe that Ruby is actually quite a gem. We have also done some dancing, some house playing and now she is playing Doodle Fit while I blog. This life is one I can definitely enjoy.

I have a few things on my blogging mind to do over the next few days, weeks, and months. I have some posts brewing inside of me and I am trying to figure out if they are for public consumption. I am doing some soul searching, some personal reflecting and planning and a little 9 month challenge out of a book I am reading. Basically, if I can carve out some time each day, the blog material above and beyond what my rugrats provide, will be flowing.

Until then, though, I leave you with these 2 flashbacks for me. Caroline is cheering for my alma mater. It is ca-razy to see her in a PA uniform. Fun and weird and (honestly) not something I really imagined as a kid because I hadn't thought about living in Little Rock as a grown up. But, I am thrilled watching her make her own happy memories somewhere that I loved so much.

And, Josh has introduced Caroline (and by default Sascha) to Saved by the Bell. Netflix is so fun. Caroline has traded Ant Farm and other recent Disney tween shows for the kids at Bayside and sometimes I "force" myself to sit through an episode with her--nostalgia is awesome!