Monday, March 2, 2015

Month Twenty One - Saying Goodbye Part 10 - The Final Goodbye



This past Friday, February 27th, we said our final goodbye to Bubba. He was in our care for twenty one months and one week. We knew since July that this day was going to happen (just not the exact date) and I am glad that it has come and gone. We knew it would be tough to say goodbye even though we had seven months to process it. It was a very sad day, the hardest part was leaving the house for the last time with him. Uploading these few pictures to edit them made me cry, but I keep telling myself that it is OK to be sad. It's even healing to get out a few tears every now and then. How can you not get emotional when someone was in your life for a good chunk of time and then they are just not anymore? But for the most part we are doing really well and have so much to be grateful for as this time with Bubba came to an end.

The transition could not have gone any smoother in my opinion. Bubba spent two whole weekends with his mom and siblings before he returned for good. He would never cry when we dropped him off and picked him up which was a great sign. We were able to have contact with his mom and it was all very pleasant for the most part. When we dropped him off on Friday we brought all his things which included clothes, favorite toys and books, quilt and blanket made by Jake's mom and grandmother, doctor check up papers and newborn hat and onesie he wore, and life book with pictures of the time he spent with us. It was nice being able to see where he would be living, gave us a peace of mind. The actual drop off was positive, we talked to his mom and her sister for awhile then gave him hugs and kisses. Beforehand I was a little bit nervous to see how Ivy would react to this final goodbye. I have been amazed by that girl, she has been pretty much her normal happy self. I truly believe it is because of her brother Maccoy that she has been able to handle this so well. God's timing in bringing him into our family was perfect. Jake and I agree that this would have been much harder if we didn't have our sweet baby boy in our family.

So now this chapter has come to an end, it's strange that it is over. It's going to take time for the ache in our hearts to go away but we wouldn't have changed our minds about welcoming him into our home even if we had known he wouldn't stay. So many people have said to me "I could never do that, I could never take care of a child then have to let them go." When you chose to become a foster parent you know there is a pretty good chance that the child could leave you eventually. But the time you give that child to be part of a loving home environment is so positive to their life and the joy that comes from that is much stronger than the sadness of having to say goodbye. Now that I have been through it I can say that and truly mean it. It's been a journey that has made me more patient, understanding, and forgiving. Consider becoming a foster parent, you can help change a life and in the process your life will also be changed.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mini Sessions


I have been photographing families and little ones for 5 years. Sometimes it's really tough to keep a young child's attention and high spirits during a whole session. In my experience the first 10 minutes of a shoot are the best and produce the most smiles. If you are looking to get some updated pictures of your child/children (or family) as well as a non-stressful experience then a mini session is just for you!

On Sunday March 15th I will be offering 5 mini sessions. 10 minutes of shooting at the Mesa Arts Center, 8 edited/enhanced high resolution images e-mailed to you for $60. This is a first come first serve so if you are interested e-mail me at riliedd@gmail.com to reserve your spot. 

Here are a few examples of sessions I have done in about this amount of time. These first few are a set I photographed of my son (3 months) and he actually was not even in the best mood! I was still able to get some great pictures of him in a short period of time before he was completely done. 


I took these photos a few years ago of my sister and her family.  My niece Ever was smiley right away and did great the whole shoot, which was a pretty quick one. At her age anything longer would have been a challenge so a quick shoot was just perfect and we got some great images.


Since this was a family shoot I was also able to get some good shots of her older brother.


Although these session are geared towards small children I will do a mini session for any type of pictures. If you are looking to get some head shots this would be ideal as well. I took some for my husband the other day and included two of the shots here (and remember you will get 8 images total). 


Friday, January 30, 2015

Grandpa Atwood



My husband's grandpa passed away earlier this week. He was a wonderful man who was adored by his family. This picture was taken in November just a few weeks after our son Maccoy (middle name Atwood) was born. Jake wrote the obituary with his cousin Lacee and wanted to share it. 

Robert Atwood passed away on January 26, 2015 at his home in Mesa, Arizona. He was surrounded by his beautiful wife of 66 years and all six of his children when the Lord called him home.

If you every think of the word "example," you should think of my grandpa.  He was and still will be the best example to many people (family and friends alike) of what it means to be a Christian man. He was always there for anyone who needed him.  He and grandma prayed daily for one of their children and anyone connected to that child; whether it was his/her spouse, kids, grandkids, friends, or relatives of that child and anyone else they felt needed prayer that day. He made special dates with the grandsons, taking them to some of his favorite places for breakfast or lunch to make them feel special (and oh…how special they felt!).  They got alone time with the best grandpa in the entire world!  At one time in his life he mentioned that he would have enjoyed hunting and fishing more, but more important was to spend time with his family…so that’s what he did!  If anyone had a baby (and with six children and all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren there were a lot of babies), we all knew grandpa had to be one of the first people we introduced our baby to. He would hold them,  rock them, sing to them (I'm sure some of us still sing The Donut Song or the song about the skunk sticking its head in a skunk hole, because we heard them sung over and over by him), rub their feet, and love on them! When they got a little bit older, he still loved the babies.  However, if they cried he would say, "Hey, you cry and I'll whistle!" and that’s just what he did.  Before long, the baby didn’t quite know what to think and the crying was over.  If you knew Robert at all...even just a little, I'm sure that you have heard at least one of his jokes.  He loved to tell jokes to anyone that would listen.  Sometimes, you heard the same one over and over.  But it didn’t matter.  You still laughed with him and smiled as if you hadn't heard it before.  If you ever needed a Tic-Tac, he had some, and they were always the orange ones (the best color of Tic-Tac).  Still, to this day, if we buy Tic-Tacs, we buy the orange ones, because the other colors don't mean anything when you could buy and eat the color that he loved the most. 

Robert was born on July 31, 1928 in Stubbs Township of Rusk County, Wisconsin to Walter & Bernice Atwood.  He married Beverly Bollman on August 10, 1948 at Riverside Mission in Bruce, Wisconsin.  They shared a deep love and commitment for each other that was evident to anyone who knew them.

Though Robert attended church as a child, he credits an evangelism service that he attended in Raymond, Washington in 1949 as the time when he committed his life to the Lord.  As a newly married man, he pulled his wife up with him as he walked to the front of the church to respond to the preacher’s invitation to start a relationship with Jesus.  It’s because of his belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we have peace knowing he is in heaven.  Moreover, because of his passion for discipleship and evangelism, many others have come to know Jesus through him.

From an early age grandpa learned what it meant to be a hard worker.  At eight years old he was working the farm behind a team of horses.  When he finished school, he went where the work was: building army barracks in Alaska, laying railroad tracks in Wisconsin (only because he was too young to fight in the war), driving a caterpillar clearing logging roads in Washington, driving a route for a laundry service, and hauling milk as a long distance truck driver.  After starting an insurance agency in Zion, Illinois in 1968, he worked two other jobs to provide for his family—driving a school bus in the morning and working a night shift at Dunkin Donuts.

Grandpa’s favorite day of the week was Sunday.  Often his only day off during the week, he loved going to church with his family.  In the car ride to church, he would quote Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”  For the last several years he and grandma attended Boulder Mountain Community Church.  He was always eager to go to church, even in the last years of his life when he was so weak that such an outing would mean two days for him to recover his strength.

Finally, Grandpa was a visionary.  He would say, “Get a vision and step out in faith.”  For him, this meant starting an insurance agency, in spite of his company’s representatives telling him he wouldn’t make it (which is something you don’t say to him).  Not only did he make it, but he was agent of the year the following year, and he later started his second agency in Arizona.  God also gave him a vision to be a church planter.  Working with the Baptist General Conference he started Faith Baptist Church in 1974 in Grayslake, Illinois and Desert View Baptist Church in 1983 out of a Bible study in his living room in Mesa.  He was a charter member of Vision Arizona, a church-planting movement that is very much alive today, starting churches all over the state of Arizona.

To his wife, six kids, 18 grandchildren, and 37 great-grandchildren, he gave an example of what it means to lead his family, love his wife, and love God.  We will miss his prayers, his gentle spirit, his humor, and his kisses.  
Grandpa wanted to leave us with Philippians 4:13: 
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to one of Robert and Beverly's favorite ministries:

CHIEF - the Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship (www.chief.org)
Hospice of the Valley (www.hov.org)


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Month Twenty - Saying Goodbye Part 9


We took the kids to Payson a few weeks ago to play in the snow. Ivy loved it of course, Bubba was pretty confused by his gloves and the wet white stuff, and Maccoy and I enjoyed watching them play from the warmth of our car:)

This month has been a strange one, not that anything new has happened really, just inside I have had many different thoughts, feelings, and emotions. There have been days (more towards the beginning of this month 20) where I have felt a darkness wash over me where my thoughts have been negative and the feelings of being stuck in this process have just felt heavy. Bubba went through a rough patch of not feeling very well and also acting out a bit. You know, the normal toddler tantrums and hitting. Since he started daycare in September he has had a constant runny nose along with other not so fun symptoms. Visits started up but then there was a week where the case aide who supervises the visits was sick so the visit was canceled. Thankfully towards the end of this month I have felt the heaviness melt away and a lightness begin to take its place. And that's just part of life I think, no matter what is going on. There are good days and there are bad days. But I have been encouraged to not let my emotions rule me which can be a challenge. I am thankful for all the support we continue to have. I don't know what I would do without my family and the help they have given us.

Bubba's case worker came over yesterday but didn't have much news for us really. She said that his mom is continuing to take her classes and has passed her home inspection which is good to hear. Sounds like she is at a place where she is ready for Bubba to come live with her BUT apparently we are waiting on what is called a reunification team to be put in place. And they are behind, which is no surprise but is frustrating since he was originally supposed to be going back to his mom in November. The case worker said that towards the end of February she would like there to be a date in place for him to return to his mom. We are planning a trip during Ivy's spring break (third week of March) and I asked her if she thinks Bubba will be returning before then (so we wouldn't have to set up respite for him) and she said if he isn't back by then she will be very disappointed. So we continue to wait.

We have told Ivy that her foster brother will probably be returning to his mom before her Birthday in May (since we don't have a date yet but believe it will be before then). So far she has been doing well knowing he will be leaving. We try to be honest with her and answer her question when she has them. We are so proud of her and how she has handled everything! We are also so proud of how well she is doing at school and we celebrated her getting student of the month a few weeks ago. It was so fun having family members come to cheer her on at the little ceremony where she got her certificate:)


And our little Maccoy boy has been nothing but a joy since he joined our family in November! I am continually thankful that God brought him into our life during what has been a challenging time. He is a gift to us all.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

DIY Project - Squinkie Houses


I wouldn't call myself a crafty mom but my daughter LOVES to do crafts. So, I decided that I needed to be more intentional about creating with her at home. I had a dentist appointment this past week and while in the waiting room I picked up a random magazine (couldn't even tell you the name of it) and began to flip through. Well, when I saw the picture for these cute little guys I new that we could do this! I didn't have time to look at the instructions because I was called back for my cleaning but I figured it looked simple enough. Ivy and I made these yesterday and they really were very easy and she had so much fun creating them that I just had to share. Not only is it fun for your kiddo but also you probably already have all the materials you need in your house to make them. Here is what we used -

 - toilet paper rolls
- paint
- paper
- glue
- scissors
- newspaper (to keep everything on top of)
 - squinkies

Now, if you don't know what a squinkie is just go to www.squinkies.com. They have been a pretty popular toy for some time now so I'm sure that most kids have them:) They are tiny squishy figures, definitely not toddler friendly because of how similar they are to gummy candies, FYI. Ivy has a collection of girl AND boy squinkies so really both genders would enjoy this project! 

The first thing I did was cut out a little door before Ivy painted the toilet paper rolls. She painted one solid color, let that dry, and then decorated the rolls with other paint colors.


After the rolls were dry we folded a small piece of paper for the roof. Glueing them on was tricky but I figured you could also tape them from the inside if the glue doesn't hold the roof to the thin edges of the toilet paper roll. We did get ours to stick and then all we had to do was wait a bit for them to dry and that was it! It was easy for Ivy to do and took a good amount of time to decorate (which is the best part). Now whenever we have an empty toilet paper roll we will know what to do with it! Pretty soon she will have a nice little squinkie village:)


Monday, December 29, 2014

Month Nineteen - Christmas Time and Saying Goodbye Part 8


We finally got some news this month on what is going to happen with our foster son and his case--I'll save that for the end and start with the fun stuff. We were still able to fit in some of our traditional Christmas activities this year even with the addition of our new little guy. On my Birthday (the big 28!) we loaded up all three kids into the Flex and headed to Prescott for a nice little day trip. My awesome sister Morrie joined us and was a huge help. I love visiting this town during Christmas time. There is a fantastic gingerbread house display and the courtyard is decorated super cute, it's a must every Christmas season! Ivy enjoyed showing Bubba around.


Playing hide and seek with dad.


Jake and Ivy had a fantastic time watching the Nutcracker at the Phoenix Symphony. It was Ivy's first time and I wasn't sure how well she would do sitting through the whole thing... she loved it! It was fun hearing about her favorite scenes and dancers. Love that this will be a new tradition for the years to come!


Ivy is loving having two brothers. And Bubba loves the new baby too. Still haven't had any jealousy issues, so thankful!  


Ivy and some of her aunts and uncle decorated a gingerbread house together a few days before Christmas. Ivy takes this task pretty seriously.


And Maccoy slept through it all, no matter how hard we tried to wake him up! Bubba slept through it too, no surprise there:)


We had a wonderful Christmas. Ivy woke up nice and early and it was fun capturing her excitement.


When Bubba finally woke up a few hours after Ivy we tried to teach him how to open his gifts. 


He wasn't very interested... but did enjoy Ivy's new umbrella. He walked around the house with it and a big smile on his face:)


Bubba is in the total toddler stage so I haven't even attempted getting a picture of all three kids, he is constantly on the go. Ivy has been pretty great letting me get some shots of her and the baby, and I love them!


The day before Christmas Eve our case worker finally came over for a visit. The last time we had seen her was in September. We were informed that Bubba's mom is doing everything she needs to be doing in order to get her kids back, which is great news. His mom and I have been e-mailing and she has been asking me questions about Bubba which has been very encouraging. It's CPS that has been slow moving. Bubba finally got a visit with his mom on Christmas Eve and visits in the future have been scheduled. This means things are really starting to happen now. Once again we were told that he should be returning to his mom in about two months. This is what we have been told every month since September but now that visits have started up again I think this could be the truth. So, sometime in February-March if everything goes as should. 

At this point we have accepted that Bubba is leaving and are really rooting for his mom and their reunification. It didn't come easy getting here because the case plan changed to reunification so suddenly. Since we were told from practically the beginning that Bubba would not be going back to a biological parent it was definitely a struggle wrapping our minds around the fact that he actually is now. We have had to accept that we have done our part for the little guy and now all we can do is hope and pray that his mom will continue to make good choices and do whatever she can to make him feel loved. Visits will eventually become more frequent towards the end and there will be some overnight visits before he goes to live with her. Hopefully two months will be a good amount of time for them to begin to bond. At this point the sooner the better for Bubba and the beginning of his new life with his mom and siblings.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ayden 6 Months


This sweet boy recently turned six months and he is a cutie! I always love to see the changes that take place in the first six months of a little one's life. I have been taking pictures of the Dennett family before this little one was even in the picture and it's been so fun to watch their family grow! Ayden was a happy boy during this shoot, loved all of his sweet little smiles and expressions.


Will end with this shot of Ayden and his dad:) Have a Merry Christmas Dennett family!