The Panama Canal, three trips by train, heart surgery, and foster care: 2015 in Review

Normally, I have an abundance of words. But this year I feel introspective and private. I haven’t posted as much lately. How did this gushing writer end up in this quiet place? Let’s review. (The links will take you to other stories/posts we’ve shared this year.)

2015 in Review

Photo from our talented friends at KLT Photography

The start of 2015 was an adventure. Nate managed an airplane conversion and part of his role was to ferry an older Piper Mirage from Indiana to the state of Washington and have it converted to a Jet Prop. The girls and I joined him, and this trip across the U.S. in a small plane with no bathroom, an energetic four-year-old, and a potty training two-year-old will forever be remembered as one of our most epic adventures.

General Aviation

We made pit stops at little towns with science museums that we could check into for free with our local museum pass. We flew low over Mount Rushmore. We stopped in the snowy mountains of Montana. We landed safely at our destination.

After dropping off the plane in Spokane, we needed a way to get home. Commercial airfare prices were sky high, so we hopped on a train and spent a magical 72 hours passing through the parts of our country that are surely the most beautiful. (This was our first of three train trips in 2015! We share our train trip tips in this post.)

Train travel in the USA

Back home again in Indiana, we shivered through a few long weeks of frigid winter. Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more snow and ice, we headed south and boarded a ship for an unforgettable ten day cruise through the Panama Canal. This family trip (with my parents, our girls, and my brother) was longer than most of our trips. I’ve dreamed of this trip for years, and our ten-year anniversary seemed like a justifiable reason to make this dream come true. Many people thought we made a mistake to celebrate such a big marriage milestone with kids, but we love traveling with our girls. And our girls’ experience with the children of the Embera Indian Village in the jungle of Panama was a highlight of our year.

Recommended Panama Canal Cruise Excursions: Authentic Embera Indian Village

We returned home from the cruise, rested for two weeks, and then headed back to Spokane to pick up the converted airplane and fly back home with our favorite pilot at the controls.

This crazy travel pace would not have been possible a few years ago. But somehow it didn’t feel completely insane to attempt all of this with a two-year-old and four-year-old.

This exciting pace suits us.

But in the spring, life slowed down.

We stayed close to home and waited for a call from the Department of Children and Families. We were officially licensed to be foster parents, and we were ready to say yes to opening our home to a foster child. The need for foster parents in Indiana is great, so it didn’t take long for us to get several calls. The call we said yes to was for an adorable two-year-old boy.

I believe our time as a foster family led me to this deeper, darker, and quieter place. As foster parents, we can’t share a lot of information about what’s going on in our lives. A lot of times, our thoughts and struggles must be kept private because a foster child’s story is not ours to tell. I can’t share a lot of what we’re dealing with online, so at times I choose not to share at all.

Our oldest daughter (now 5) is like me in that she has big feelings.  Intimate knowledge of the world of foster care brought out my big feelings. I hurt because foster kids suffer due to the decisions of their drug-addicted parents. I’m sad that addiction ruins families. I’m frustrated that DCF is understaffed and under-equipped to handle the cases that come through their office. I’m annoyed because the rights of the bio parents are most important. I’m angry that I lost control of my own schedule and family rhythm when we introduced two, three, four, or five visits into our weekly routine. I’m confused because I want bio families to be reunited…yet sometimes they shouldn’t be.

But the 10 1/2 short weeks we spent with a foster tot in our home were holy. They exposed our own ugly emotions (see above) and reminded us that it is good to sacrifice and make room in our lives, home, and hearts for the “least of these.” And the conclusion to our foster story was rare and beautiful.

In the midst of the ups and downs of fostering, we stole away to an enchanted castle (!) for a murder mystery party (happy 30th birthday to me!) and our youngest daughter had a small heart procedure.

It’s hard for me to mention the heart procedure so casually. It was an emotional experience! But God is good. The entire experience was covered in prayer, and the procedure was free of complications. The patient got to drink special “sparkle water” and watch Toy Story when she woke up from the anesthesia. She appeared to have felt no pain, and the procedure was a success.

In the fall, our foster tot went home.

Since then, we’ve been recovering and recalibrating. We ventured by train up to the Mall of America. Nate changed jobs (ever heard of Mod Pizza?), and the whole family spent a week in Seattle while Nate did some training.

We took a train trip to Chicago, put 1000 miles on our Yuba Mundo cargo bike, and fell in love with a foster baby who stayed with us just five short days while her foster mama was out of town.

That sweet respite care experience made us think that perhaps it’s almost time for us to wait for another call from DCF. Maybe we’re ready to foster again.

Even though 2015 was filled with several once-in-a-lifetime experiences, 80% of our time was spent doing things that are perfectly ordinary. Although you don’t want to hear about the hours we spent folding laundry, kissing boo-boos, or walking the dog, those ordinary moments are part of what made 2015 great. We spent those moments with the people we love most, and for that we are so grateful.

Thank you for journeying with us this year through the ups, downs, and the ordinary moments in between.

Leave a Reply