The New Blog Is Here!!!

I promise that this is the last blog move. We PURCHASED the domain name, so I’ll be there indefinitely 🙂

We also had to change the name. Instead of “slowfortheconezone”, we changed it to “ourconezone”. This was mainly because the state of California has already claimed the first one for CALTrans. Wouldn’t want them thinking I’m some terrorist group!

Oddly enough, I had the most traffic yesterday that I’ve EVER had on this blog. This is probably because I forgot that Facebook automatically published my post on Facebook. People probably saw the title, “Exciting Things” and assumed I’m pregnant (definitely not). Everyone pays attention with those sorts of announcements.

If you were a follower here, make sure to click on the new button on the top right!

Without further ado…

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Healing after trauma

Gregory midnight wakeup 3:2013

As this summer draws to a close, I wanted to talk about what it means to heal from something traumatic that’s happened in your life.

When I talk about the trauma of this past year, I am not just talking about our awful foster care experience, but also about our house-hunting ordeal turned nightmare. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about this past year, figuring out the ways in which those difficult months, the most difficult of my life thus far, have changed me. I always worry about how bad experiences are going to shape me, because I’ve come to find that I’m SO sensitive and SO shapeable. I am entirely unable to put on a front or be happy about things if I’m not doing well inside. Open Book. That’s me. An Open Book that anyone can write in.

But is hardening my heart a good option? Is that what this last year has taught me– harden your heart and be careful who you love? Be careful what you dream for?

No. No matter how much those 5 months of my life hurt and sucked big time, I REFUSE to let them negatively affect me, as easy as that would be. For instance, the first question people ask us is, “Has this made you afraid to ever foster kids again?”

The answer to that is complicated. Do I think we will ever be ready to foster a teenager again? Nope, I can safely say that that is not something I ever want to put our family through again. But do I wish we could foster other kids? Make a difference in this world, even if it means heartache? Yes. A hundred times yes. In many ways, this experience has opened our eyes to the huge hurting world out there, and once you see it you can never unsee. I’m grateful that our negative experience taught us something so positive about our calling and about ourselves. I sometimes ask Jesse, “Why do you think that God allowed things to get so bad?”, and he always responds, “Because, there’s comfort knowing that we did everything we possibly could. It helps us to know that the failure was not our fault.”

Above all things, however, I think that this experience has taught me how to NOT be a victim, and that the consequences of letting someone or some circumstance walk all over your family are dreadful. When someone is unfair or downright cruel to me, I am the “flight” part of the “fight or flight”. I only know how to retreat and lick my wounds in secret, even if the abuse is ongoing. Jesse is actually the opposite end of this equation, which is what makes us so good for each other. When I just want to retreat and give up, he takes charge and faces the situation head on. In fact, the one thing he wishes he’d done differently this last year was stop the situation from getting as bad as it did, pulling the plug sooner.

A few examples of abuse in my life: I had a horrible boyfriend who was really bad for me. He treated me horribly. He took other girls’ phone numbers WHILE WE WERE ON DATES, and then accused me of being untrusting. Jesse was actually the one who helped me break up with this guy, because I didn’t have the nerve to do it myself. Even though the relationship was toxic and abusive, it was better than nothing and I stuck with it.

There was also the time I worked at a classical school in Ft. Worth and a particular mom had it out for me because I failed several of her kids’ papers. Since she had home-schooled them up to that point, she was deeply hurt by my criticism. She made it her personal mission to GET ME FIRED. She would literally sit in the carpool line all afternoon, going car to car, trying to collect enough dirt on me to get me fired. Seriously! And instead of standing up for myself, I took it. I never confronted her, just came home to Jesse sobbing every single day. As a result, I was afraid to ever set foot in a classroom again.

All of these situations have shown me that I do not need to be a victim when something wrong occurs. Just because someone is offended does NOT make it my fault. I do not need to accept personal responsibility if I have done all that I can on my end of things. The buck stops with what I can control. The end.

But that’s easier said than done, as anyone knows. It’s easy to let your thoughts wander, wonder what so and so thinks, wonder if so and so is mad, wonder what they might do. I am learning, left and right, that the biggest thing I need on a day to day basis is to control my thoughts. There were so many times during those 5 months that my thoughts were like buzzing bees around my head. And it got to be too much.

Finally, I was able to lean on the Lord in a way that people talk about with many cliche’s such as, “Give all your thoughts to Him”.

That always sounded cheesy to me, and I’d never understood it.

Until these last 5 months. It took me being in such a desperate place of being unable to control my own thoughts and anxieties to fall on the Lord and say, sometimes out loud, “I cannot handle this anymore, not for another second. I NEED you to take these thoughts from me.”

There was one time that I’ll never forget when I did this. We had just finished with an AWFUL day, full of police officers and self-harm threats from our foster child. I was desperate for comfort, and I cried out to God. And I got an IMMEDIATE response. As soon as I was done praying, I felt a warm presence, starting at my head and going all the way down to my toes. And I heard God speak. I cannot explain it, but I heard words. Someone said, “I am pleased. You have pleased me. And I love you so much.” It makes me tear up just to write this, because I rarely want to talk about it, it’s so precious to me. I’d never heard God speak to me before, and that day I heard it.

Learning to open my heart and let God show me how valuable I am has been the most important way in which this traumatic last year has changed me. I know God is there. I know my family is there. I know my friends are there. If I can stay fully aware of how much these people love me, I don’t need to harden my heart in order to protect it.

Love protects. Not the absence of love. This, I have learned.

July LA Trip

This past weekend, we travelled down to see TONS of friends in the LA/Orange County area. We have a huge community of friends down there, left over from both college and our early Orthodox days at St. Barnabas.

Our first stop was a July 4th celebration at Mitch and Trenna’s (our godparents) wonderful house in Yorba Linda. They had invited the entire godfamily AND their kids and grandkids. It was a sight to behold– over 20 kids, running crazy, along with around 40 adults. We haven’t been down to see any of them since I was preggo with Anthony, so we had a lot of catching up to do! It was heavenly.

July LA Trip 1

Because Trenna has 5 grandkids, she has a wonderful yard for playing. G got busy right away (after being in the car for 5 hours straight, it must’ve felt awesome to run around and jump in water!). There were kiddie pools, a slip n slide, yummy snacks, a playhouse, and an activity water table!

July LA Trip 22

Gregory and Jo-jo remembered each other from Elise's wedding last year, so they picked up right where they left off

Gregory and Jo-jo remembered each other from Elise’s wedding last year, so they picked up right where they left off

We lost sight of G for a short while (which was okay, because the whole yard was fenced), and when we noticed him again, he had jumped into a kiddie pool, clothes and shoes and all! He was in seventh heaven.

July LA Trip 23

July LA Trip 21

I took this picture of Jesse and 2 of our godbrothers, Elmo and Tim

Trenna also had a “grandkids” room, complete with a crib, a twin bed, and a full bed. After the party was over, we were able to put the kids to sleep and then talk to Mitch and Trenna for hours over a cup of coffee. Again, SO HEAVENLY!
The next day, Trenna made us omelettes using fresh veggies from her garden. Then, her son and daughter in law, Alex and Emily, came over with their two kids, Olivia (Gregory’s age) and Mia (2 months old). Gregory and “Livy” quickly got to playing house. Funny enough, Gregory was way more into it than she was!
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When it was time to go, they gave each other the cutest hugs.July LA Trip 12
After Anthony had a LONG nap in the crib, we packed the kids in the car and headed to the Shelbys for a type of “college reunion”. With the exception of the Unruhs and Jason who weren’t present, these people were our BEST friends throughout college. Jesse even lived with most of them in a house, at one point. It’s so special to be able to go back and watch all of our offspring play together!
The whole group, later that evening

The whole group, later that evening

Gregory and Annalyse were partners in crime the entire day. They actually had a planned attack to corner the cat at one point! They shared and played so well that Gregory has been asking to play with her ever since.

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We spent Friday night at the Shelbys in their 2nd bedroom. Saturday morning, we made a breakfast scramble of all the leftover grilled veggies and steak. Then, we headed out to their apartment complex’s pool!

Late Saturday afternoon, we packed the kids in the car and headed to Corona to spend the night at Jesse’s brother’s girlfriend’s house. It was in a newer development in Corona, so it was HUGE and practically brand new. AND we had it all to ourselves since the family had other plans that night.

Also, there was a gorgeous pool with a hilltop view of the valley. Jesse and David swam with the boys while I headed down for some alone time at the giant mall (ANTHROPOLOGIE!!!). But I did manage to take some pictures when I got back.

July LA Trip 9

July LA Trip 8

He kept yelling, “Momma! I got smoochies! Dadda gave me smoochies!”

July LA Trip 7

We’ve discovered that Anthony pretty much hates the water, so he sat with me on the deck and chewed on his boat.

July LA Trip 6

Sunday morning, we went to St. Andrew’s church in Riverside. Normally, we would go to St. Barnabas, our home church where we were chrismated 6 years ago. They were holding a Parish Life Conference, however, so most of St. Barnabas (including our godfamily) decided to go to their sister church, St. Andrews. They just had their church building finished last year, and it is GORGEOUS. Probably the biggest Orthodox church I’ve ever been to! Fr. Josiah modeled it after a church he visited in the Holy Land.
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Temple-and-Congregation
I didn’t realize just how many people were packed inside until it came time for communion. There were over EIGHTY children in line (all the kids go first so that they can make it to Sunday School)! They just kept coming and coming and coming.
Just a few of the kids, in the choir

Just a few of the kids, in the choir

When it was the adults’ turn for communion, the children joined the choir and sang all by themselves for a good 20 minutes. It was so cute, and it brought tears to my eyes. It truly felt like we were in heaven, worshipping with the angels.
After church was over, our godfamily decided to skip coffee hour (it was a zoo, given the hundreds of people) and go down the street to eat at a pizza/pita place. This was primarily Robin’s idea, mostly because there was a fountain for Jojo and Gregory to splash in. And SPLASH they did! We ate and talked in peace for hours, and they were happily entertained!
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This is not our entire godfamily (there are THIRTY-TWO of us, turns out!), but we had quite a turnout. You can see that Gregory was not excited about leaving his beloved fountain.
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Once we were done eating, we grabbed some Starbucks, changed the boys into dry clothes, and drove 6 hours straight home from Riverside! The boys slept the entire way, stopping only once in Oxnard for In n Out.
Overall, it was an AMAZING trip. We did the entire thing for under $150, and it will definitely be remembered as one of the highlights from this summer! We can’t wait to do it again!

Anthony’s 1 year old!

Exactly 1 year ago, I was in pre-labor with my sweet baby Weester. He is such an incredible joy to us. I never thought that I could love any child as much as I love Gregory, but I was so wrong. This little bundle of joy has been the perfect addition to our family. He is my cuddle bug, and I hope he always loves giving his Momma tons of attention 🙂

We love you, baby Wee!

anthony-james birth

Anthony 1 year old

Our New House!

I haven’t blogged in a while, but there is a very good reason, I assure you…we have a house! Our appraisal cleared on Tuesday and our loan was approved on Wednesday, so it’s official! We have a 4 day weekend, so we couldn’t have picked a better time to move.

There will be more details later, but for right now, here’s a few pics!

Valle 4

Our view from the front door

Valle 37

Our lil mountain cabin!

Valle 31

Yes, this deck really is as big as it looks. We can’t wait to have parties out there! Plus, it’s all brand new, so we won’t have any issues for a while.

Family Photo Shoot– The Favorites

The photos are finally in! I had around 60 favorites, but I had to choose just a few for this post. Here is a link to the rest of my favorites!

family photo shoot 2012 5

This photo was definitely Jesse’s idea

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Just the girls

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The official Cone Family 2012 pic!

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The two cutest boys in existence

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My beautiful boy

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Baby Wee!

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If you’ve ever seen a family photo shoot of ours, we have to have a jumping picture. Always.

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Sisters!

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Awwww

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Married for 28+ years!

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He is so beautiful. I can’t believe he’s my kid!

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Or take this ball of sunshine? What did I do to deserve him?

Family Photo Shoot

Since my brother Keith came home from the Navy for the first time in 1.5 years, Jesse’s and my gift to the family for Christmas was a photo shoot with our lovely photographer, Melissa Jean (we’ve used her many times, including for Anthony’s newborn photos, my maternity shoot, my friend’s wedding, Gregory’s first birthday, and Gregory’s baby photos).

In just an hour, we got all sorts of great shots! Here’s the teaser preview she sent me.

Family Photo Shoot 1

The whole family! So blessed to have us all together for the last time in years 😦

10 New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never posted about my New Year’s Resolutions, because there’s a big part of me that’s superstitious and thinks that somehow, voicing my goals will ensure that I never reach them. But 2013 seems to be a kinder, nicer sort of year already, so I am willing to take the risk, in the hopes that writing them down will help me to accomplish them.

1. Buy a House. This one’s a biggy, folks. I’m still to superstitious to go into all the particulars, but I believe that we’ve finally settled on “The One”. Truly. The paperwork all went through yesterday, and we have our inspection scheduled for next Tuesday morning and the appraisal shortly thereafter.

The best part? It is, by far, my favorite house of all the ones we’ve looked at. Not a short sale or an REO either– in fact, we know the guy, and it never even made it onto the MLS listings for the general population to SNATCH away.

All signs point to YES! But it is still one of my New Year’s Resolutions. We just know that now is the time to get into the real estate market, especially on the Central Coast, before things get too expensive. If we’d bought at this time last year, we could’ve already made $50,000 on our investment. Hurts to think about. Hello, CA market, I officially hate you.

Conclusion: Goodbye, savings!

2. Workout Consistently. It’s hard for people to believe, looking at me now, but I used to be a workout fiend. I went to the gym every single day. My favorite thing to do at the Biola track was to get into a handstand for pushups. I went to gymnastics 2-3x/week, and had almost re-mastered my back handspring.

Now? I went to the gym last night, ran for 30 minutes and lifted weights for 5 minutes. OMG, it feels like I’ve been hit by a bus. Apparently, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to walk funny, all hunched over like Gollum.

My realistic goal would be to make it to the gym three times a week, for at least half an hour. Can I accomplish it? Not sure, but that’s why it’s a goal!

Conclusion: Sweat it off!

3. Sleep-Train Anthony. I’m all for breastfeeding on demand, but we’re dying of sleep deprivation over here. I don’t want to give my Baby Boo trauma by letting him cry it out, but he is NINE MONTHS OLD next week. My goal is that he will only wake me up 1-2x/ night from here on out. That would be heaven. There are trade-offs, to be sure (another post on it later), but with 3 kids and a part time job, I CANNOT stay up all night nursing this kid anymore.

Conclusion: Zzzzzz

4. Potty-Train Gregory. We are not in some huge hurry to get him out of diapers, but he is showing lots of signs of being ready. We’re also about ready to move him to a toddler bed! Where did the time go?

Conclusion: Invest in some floor cleaner

5. Buy a Second Car. We’ve been a 1 car family for about a year and a half now, and while I’ve LOVED it, Jesse has not. Although CA has the best of conditions, 90% of the year, walking to school every single day isn’t manly enough for him 😉 Luckily, even once our downpayment has been paid, we will still have enough $ to buy him a “beater” car. And, considering our new house is about 7 minutes away from school instead of around the corner, a second car would be a good option.

Conclusion: Zoom zoom

6. Eat Healthier. I joke that you can usually tell my general state of mind by examining my car for fast food bags. I am a closet stress eater, folks, and when the going gets rough, McDonald’s finds its way into my life. This summer, before all the craziness of of the semester was upon us, Jesse and I were eating very mindfully, and I would like that in my life once more.

Conclusion: Bring on the Protein Smoothies and quinoa!

7. Teeth. Let me tell you the story of a girl who had braces for THREE YEARS, then neglected to wear her retainer until it became too small. Jesse and I have both wanted to get braces (he would need them for longer since he’s never had them) for a while now. Once our savings has been replenished, we’d like to get a consultation and go for it! Kind of a weird resolution, but it is one, none the less.

Conclusion: Say cheese!

8. Play more, work less. I’ve loved having my own piano business. It’s been something that I can take pride in because I’ve developed a clientele base in two different cities, without any actual degree in piano playing (it’s just something I love to do!).

As much as I love piano teaching, however, I love my kids more. I love family time more. It’s hard on Jesse to get home from teaching for 6 hours and immediately jump into babysitting all 3 kids. Even though I’m only gone 1-2 hours in the afternoon, it’s the busiest part of the afternoon, and the crankiest time of day for the kids. By the time that we both get dinner done and the kids in bed, it’s time to grade papers and prep for class, then time for bed.

For our first few months in CA, before I had developed any clientele for my piano business, Jesse and I got to experience what life was like with every afternoon and evening free for the taking. We went to the zoo or the park every other day and had a blast as a family. Sometimes, the kids and I would go in another room and play while Jesse finished up his grading by dinner time.

Having experienced that, I know that life is much better when I work less. Once we move into our house, replenish our savings account, and start investing (basically, sometime this fall), I have considered quitting piano teaching altogether, at least while we have young kids.

As far as teaching English goes, it is a part of me that piano playing never will be. In fact, teaching English is as much a part of my identity as motherhood. I am also a better mom when I am reading and writing regularly, and it does a world of good for my sanity when I am bringing income in.

So, for the foreseeable future, I still plan on teaching English part time like I have been. Since it looks like (again, fingers still crossed!) we will be living only 5-7 minutes from the school, we have talked about making my schedule 12:30-3pm every day, instead of 10:30-2:30 three days a week. This would mean that I am only teaching during the boys’ nap times– they won’t even know I’m gone!

Conclusion: Money isn’t everything.

9. Enjoy. I really want to learn how to be in the moment. I have 3 wonderful kids, each with such wonderful and enjoyable qualities. I want to learn how to be mindful of the moment and savor everything about them before they grow up and move on (even thinking about it gets me teary!).

Jesse and I also love to be around each other and, despite all the stress in our lives (grad school, moving across the country twice, buying a house, and adopting a teen, to name a few!) are still great friends. We are resolving to make more time for each other this next year, possibly instituting a weekly date night once Mr. Anthony complies with resolution #3.

Conclusion: Soak in every moment.

10. Make Friends! I am notoriously HORRIBLE about making friends. I never pictured myself as being anti-social, but then I started looking at my life.

In High School, my best friends were the ones I went to church with as a child.

In college, my best friends (with the exception of two) were also my friends from High School, or were already friends of Jesse’s.

I MARRIED someone I grew up with.

It didn’t feel like “home” in Dallas until we convinced 3 of our CA friends to move with us.

So….I don’t have many friends here on the Central Coast. Time to change that, especially considering my best friend Tess is looking into moving on to grad school, as is my good friend/sister-in law.

Conclusion: Hello, my name is…

Nightmare

Although this happened a few days ago, I wanted to write it down so that someday, when Gregory is a teenager, I can remember.

Tuesday night, Gregory woke up at 4am screaming his head off. Because I was nursing Anthony at the time (welcome to my life), I asked Jesse to get up and comfort him. “He must’ve had a nightmare,” I said, because I could tell from his screaming that he wasn’t just uncomfortable, he was terrified.

I heard Jesse pick him up and hold him. A few minutes later, I heard Jesse try to walk him back into his room. Every time he stepped foot in the door, Gregory flipped out again, scared to death.

So Jesse brought Gregory back to our bed. It was the first time in months that Gregory had slept between us, and even though I almost always have Anthony asleep beside me, I was really happy to have Gregory there with us. I really miss those days when he would stay still long enough to snuggle.

He was shaking head to toe. I tried to calm him down with a few hugs and kisses, but the only thing that worked was putting my hand in his.

I’ll never forget how tight he grabbed my hand, still shaking from his nightmare. Eventually, his breathing slowed down and he was calm enough to sleep.

And that’s how we fell asleep. Gregory snuggled between us, holding my hand for dear life.

He may be an independent toddler, often saying, “No hug!” when I ask.

But he still knows that Mommy will always be there to comfort him when life gets scary. I hope that he never forgets that.

And I hope I never forget that he needs it.

Halloween 2012

I have to say, Gregory made one hecka-cute giraffe!

Playing with some toys as we got ready to go. Once we put the costume on, and he saw himself in the mirror (smirking the whole time!) he never once tried to take it off

My mom saved my old cheerleading uniform from high school 2001!

Poppa got the honor of taking Gregory house to house while we took pictures! Gregory yelled, “MOE CAN-DEE! MOE CAN-DEE!” super loud, in between each and every house. It was hilarious!

 

 

Nanna got to hold a super cute elephant 🙂

 

Adorable munchkin alert!

He pretty much hummed or slept on her shoulder for most of the evening

We met up with some friends and formed ourselves a little circus safari! One girl walked by and said, “Mom, it’s a PETTING ZOO!!”

Gregory was definitely eating the chocolate through the wrapper. His love for candy completely overran any logic.

 

 

Later, Gregory, on a total sugar high, crashed and fell into his toy bucket, after which he could not get out. I imagine real giraffes feel the same way.