We always seem to have so much to say when we do these posts, so I’ll go ahead and get started on the incredibly long update 🙂
We are working back at Happy Hill Farm, which has been renamed to North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill Farm, but it’s NCTA for short. We came out to visit my mom for the 4th of July holiday, (Sidenote: Mom moved back out to Glen Rose and her job at the nursing home when we moved into our CARES apartment back in February. It was a good move for all parties involved and we’re all happier in our current places) and while we were out here, we stopped by to see our friends here at the farm. There were lots of changes going on and we were excited about some of them and intrigued about others. Elizabeth had a great time seeing the kids and our friends and I was feeling very guilty about how Owen wasn’t going to have the same great experience that his sister did. Since my mom was no longer living with us, it was a possibility for us to consider coming back to the school and working with the kids again. On our drive home we were discussing it and decided that since we had our two year agreement with Apartment Life to fulfill, we would revisit the idea of becoming house parents again once our two year end date was closer.
Well, we got back home and just a few short days later, we got a call from our Apartment Life supervisor stating that the new management company at our apartment complex had called and said that the CARES program was against their company policy, since their employees are supposed to be in charge of planning all events and resident retention. They were giving us 60 days to find either a new apartment or a new CARES team placement. We immediately thought that it was sign that we should reapply with Happy Hill. I was a complete and nervous wreck. I really loved my job at ACI; those kids are so precious to me, my coworkers had become my friends, and I just absolutely love the challenge of that work. However, it was taking a toll on me to be away from my sweet family for 10 hours a day. I left before they got up most days and came back just in time to eat dinner with Elizabeth and put her to bed. The commute was just way too much and Aaron basically got no time with me since I was so tired and he just wanted to unwind by playing some Minecraft at the end of the day.
We prayed about it constantly for about 2 weeks. I called my closest friends and my wonderful mentor, Christy. She of course gave me great advice and we submitted a written request to the farm to return to our work as house parents. We were on edge for a few days while we waited on an answer. We finally got it, and they said that there was a position for us. I immediately had a rush of relief and felt like a burden was lifted off me. This was the choice we were supposed to make and this is where we needed to be. Telling my coworkers and the families of my kiddos was tough, but they were all so very sweet and understanding.
We packed up again and with the help of our awesome friends, we moved for the 3rd time in 10 months. This time we moved into the Junior High boys’ house. We have 5 boys; one is in 7th grade and the rest are in 8th, one of whom is from China. There are a lot of things that are different being in a boys house, but most of them are good. One thing we do miss is the elementary 9:00 bedtime 🙂 Our guys are very different from one another and interact with us and the kids in unique ways. They have all grown very fond of Elizabeth and Owen, and the feeling is mutual. Elizabeth absolutely adores the 7th grader. He is always very sweet to both Elizabeth and Owen. They have their moments, but overall they’re good kids and we enjoy them. Aaron is especially liking the fact that he can be more involved and that they like video games so much. We are in the midst of hosting a big Madden football league season with them. The two single guys that work in here on our days off are also playing and they’re all really enjoying it. It’s really sweet to see Aaron practicing and trying to create a strategy when he knows he’s playing one of the boys who are really good. The boys are about to start their semester finals tomorrow. I was helping two of them study for their English exam tonight. It’s good that we can tag team pretty much any of the stuff the guys need whereas with the girls, there was a lot that Aaron couldn’t help them with. We are having our Christmas party with them this Thursday before they go home for the break and I’m looking forward to it.
Elizabeth has grown so very much. She’s so smart and can carry on the sweetest conversation. She likes to count and can go all the way to 16. 17-20 get a bit muddled, but she tries. She knows her ABCs, but only in song. We’re working on being able to recognize the letters. She definitely has E for Elizabeth and O for Owen down though. She went through a little spell there right as she was turning two, where she was throwing monstrous tantrums, but thankfully it passed after just a few weeks. She got a big girl bed for her birthday from Aaron’s parents and does an awesome job sleeping in it. She gave her pacis to the paci fairy once she turned two and got a leapfrog tag reader as her surprise big girl gift. She also started preschool two days a week back in August. She goes to a local church’s preschool program 8:30-12:45. Their program is actually 9:30-2:30, but she just couldn’t/wouldn’t nap there so we decided to do the early-bird drop off and just pick her up after their lunchtime before they lay down for their naps. She has been doing much better about naptime at home though and so after the new year, we’re going to try and do regular full days again. Elizabeth is a ballerina and will show you her sweet ballet dance moves if you ask nicely. She loves to sing and dance and her favorite song at the moment is Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man… It’s so fun to have her sing along with me. She is a good big sister, even if she can be a little rough with Owen. He’s pretty sturdy for a little guy and can dish it out too (most often in the form of pulling sister’s hair).
Owen is fun. He is a ball of energy, always on the go. He is trying hard to start walking already and once he figures that out we are in some serious trouble. I can see him being a climber too, so I’m just preparing myself for lots of worrying/bruise-kissing in the near future. He is in a very mama’s-boy clingy phase, but it’s mostly due to teething pain. He has his bottom two front teeth and one of his top front teeth broke through the gum just today. He is quite tall and skinny, so his onesies are either too big everywhere or a bit snug in length. He loves his big sister and screeches happily anytime she’s near. He also likes to watch The Fresh Beat Band with her. It’s pretty cute to watch them both enthralled by the computer (they watch it on Netflix).
Aaron and I are really enjoying being back here on the farm. We have weekly Men’s/Women’s Bible study which we’re enjoying having with our coworkers. We are also enjoying having more time to spend together as a couple as well as family time. We’re trying to find something to do together that we both really enjoy that isn’t work/parenting related, but it’s a little tough with two little ones. Mostly we just hang out after all the kids are asleep, sometimes watch a movie on Netflix, and try to enjoy our days off.
I am loving that there are so many other moms here with little ones. There were quite a few here before too, but we never got together. Now, a teacher’s wife has started a playgroup on Wednesdays. The kids and I go and they play while we have grownup conversation and lunch all together. It’s really wonderful, and some of us even get together regularly to work out three days a week. I only go twice since Elizabeth goes to preschool on Tuesdays. I take that as my chill out day and Thursday I go to women’s Bible study.
I am enjoying still being a stay-at-home dad but with the added bonus of having my wife around too 🙂 Getting to stay home with the kids when Tori was at work was great, but I could see it was hard on her to be away from us all day, and when she got home we pretty much were both exhausted. Now we are working at finding something we can enjoy together. We’re trying to cook more, seeing as working at NCTA means we eat in the dining center for most meals and we just don’t cook as much anymore. We’re hoping this can be an activity we can share, but usually one of us just ends up taking care of the kids. I’m very happy to be in the middle school boys house. There is just so much more they can do and that I can do with them. They have their challenges, but for the most part I can’t complain 🙂 I’m looking forward to the upcoming break though, and having time that we don’t have any real work responsibilities so we can just relax with our family.
Well, that’s the end of our blog catch-up. Merry Christmas to everyone!
Aaron, Tori, Elizabeth, and Owen