Park, Foster Care, & Birthday

We've been thoroughly enjoying the warm weather and being outside! This past weekend we went to check out the new Maggie Daley Park downtown Chicago. It is AWESOME!  If you plan to go to Chicago this summer and have kids, it's definitely worth checking out! It's right by Millenium Park.

We have had a little foster love with us for a couple weeks as her foster family needed respite care. She's 15 months old and has kept us on our toes! We have thoroughly enjoyed our time with her and even got to watch her learn to walk.  :) She goes back to her foster family tomorrow.

Today is our sweet Lucy dog's 12th birthday! She is such a loving dog and the kids adore her. :)  She got some extra love with special treats the kids picked out at Meijer this morning.


Spring is in the Air!

Here's what's been happening in the De Jager household lately!

We took the kids to JCPenney to get their 4.5 year and 2 year pictures taken.  I just love that they run super cheap specials on Groupon to make regular pictures a possibility.  And I thought they did a great job!  We'll definitely be back.  :)

Now that the weather is warming up, we have been doing a bit of exploring around the area.  A couple weeks ago we went to Lake Katherine.  It has a 1-mile walking trail and nature center.  The kids had a great time!  We took Kassidy's friend Asher along for the morning of fun.

A popular thing in our area is for local towns to host a "Touch-A-Truck" event where they have fire trucks, police cars, dump trucks, snow plows, cement trucks, tractors, etc. come to a parking lot and allow the kids to climb in and check them out.  This was our first time attending one of these events, and the kids thought it was pretty cool!

Since last summer we've had a spot designated for a sand box.  I (Kim) happened to see a cool design on Pinterest that I thought would be perfect.  This spring Chad took a weekend and made it happen.  The kids LOVE it and play in it pretty much every day!

Friday mornings are pancake mornings around our house.  Both kids eagerly pull up stools to help Daddy make them.  This has become a favorite weekly tradition!

Kyle and Haley (Kim's brother and SIL) had a wedding in Chicago a couple weeks ago.  They came for a couple nights and allowed us the privilege of babysitting Madison.  We had a great time with them!

Last year we were gifted Brookfield Zoo passes when we arrived in Illinois.  It has been such a blessing!  We have gone a few times this spring with various friends.  I think Cameron asks to see the hippos at the zoo EVERY SINGLE DAY!  They love it!

My parents were in town last weekend.  My mom and I used to plant flowers every Memorial Day weekend when we lived in Holland.  It's been a few years, but I asked if she'd be willing to come down this year to help.  Chad and my Dad were in charge of the kids (and powerwashing) while my mom and I headed to the greenhouse and spent the rest of the day planting.  I LOVE having flowers in my landscape, the garden started and am so thankful they came to help!  The weather was summer-like, so we enjoyed a lot of time outdoors.

This past week I found a "co-pilot" attachment for our bike so that Kassidy can now ride behind one of us and pedal along instead of riding in the bike trailer.  Pulling 75 pounds plus a trailer was just becoming too much and Kassidy isn't able to ride long distances with us yet on her own.  This morning we decided to try it out with a 10+ mile bike ride.  Cameron slept for a good hour in the trailer and Kassidy had a blast being on the back!  This is a game-changer for our summer, and I'm sure we'll be biking much more regularly this year.  :)


Cameron is TWO!

I'm a few days late on this one, but as of April 27, Cameron is now TWO!!

We celebrated a week early when we were in Michigan.  Nama makes the kids a cake of their choice each year.  Cameron wanted a "woof woof" cake this year.

He had fun opening his presents and loves his woof woof hat!

The new soccer goal is going to get a lot of use for years to come!

On his actual birthday, he woke up to balloons on his door.

We had donuts for lunch.

And he got to open his presents from us.  We also went out to eat at Red Robin and then to Costco for ice cream.  :)

At two, Cameron...
- is obsessed with throwing and kicking balls
- loves animals
- is a huge fan of sweets
- cannot get enough of the great outdoors
- wants to do anything and everything his big sister does
- has a strong opinion and has mastered the art of saying "no"
- loves to laugh!
- sleeps in a toddler bed (after climbing out of the crib even with a sleep sack on!)
- is kind, loving, sweet, cuddly, and full of joy
- is talking more and more, but also has extremely effective non-verbal communication skills
- enjoys watching "Map" (Dora), Daniel Tiger, Frozen, Doc, and Choo Choo (Thomas)

Cameron Allen, we are proud of you and love you so much!  You are a complete joy and we are so thankful you are part of our family.  Love you buddy!


Catching up... again!

It seems as though our blog has taken a backseat to the rest of life that is lived.  Here are some pics since our last update.

We went to Michigan to celebrate Kim's birthday the end of February. It was a fun time with family and friends.  We also celebrated brother Kyle's birthday at the same time.

March is our favorite time of year in the world of sports.  We fully embrace "March Madness" and watch LOTS of basketball!  The kids have learned that we cheer for the Hawks and Michigan State.  They have also learned that Daddy's team is Iowa and Mommy's team is MSU.  The basketball brainwashing is proving successful thus far.  :)

Kassidy and Cameron continue to be best buddies.  They love playing together and it warms my heart every day.  I pray they will always be good friends!

The day before Easter, we had an Easter Egg hunt at our church.  The kids both had a great time gathering eggs!

We had our first foster kids join us in March.  They were with us for 2 weeks as they were between foster homes.  We decided a trip to the zoo would be a fun way to spend one of the last days they were with us.  We have zoo passes to Brookfield Zoo and all 4 kids had a blast!  I cannot share pics of the boys, so you can enjoy this pic of Kassidy and Cameron sitting on the lion at the entrance.

This year, Chad's birthday was the same day as Easter.  We started the day with monkey bread for breakfast.  We then celebrated Easter for the first half of the day.  We celebrated Chad's birthday in the evening.  The kids all helped me decorate the cake and surprise Chad with a Cubs cake since it was opening day for them.  We had a fun time showering him with love!


Stepping into our "Jordan"

A couple weeks ago I (Kim) joined thousands of other women around the world as we participated in the IF:Gathering.  Throughout the weekend we looked at Joshua and his steps of faith as he took the Israelites from the desert into God's Promised Land.  

"The Lord said to Joshua... Get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites... As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you... Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it... Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:1-9)

To the Israelites, the Promised Land was full of bounty and blessings, but it was also full of giants and fortified cities.  To the human eye, it was impractical and unrealistic to believe that they would be able to overtake the land.  BUT... God promised that if they kept their eyes on Him and obeyed his commands, the land would be given to them.  40 years previous, the Israelites' fear prevented them from the land God has promised and forced them back into the desert.  This time, they were determined to BELIEVE what God has promised them would come to be.  

The command God gave was to set foot in the Jordan River.  Though the river was at flood stage and would normally have been impassable, God would part the water and allow the Israelites to walk across and into the land God had promised.  But God didn't part the water BEFORE they were to walk across.  He didn't see their fear and show them the dry path, reassuring them that it would be safe.  No, the people of Israel needed to OBEY first.  They were the ones that had to take the first step into the river.  Then God would show them the path.  

Sometimes I want God to reassure me that everything is going to be ok BEFORE I agree to what God is calling me to.  I want to see the clear path ahead and know that it's "safe" and won't shake me too much.  But consistently throughout scripture, that's not how God works.  God never promises a pain-free, easy life if we obey Him.  But God does promise that he will be faithful.  It may not "make sense" to the human mind, but to God, it makes perfect sense.  As God promised to Joshua, he promises to us today, "Be strong and courageous... For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  

As we ended the IF:Gathering, we were all encouraged to take a rock and write on that rock the next step that God is calling us to.  Just as Joshua marked the crossing of the Jordan with a pile of rocks in order to remember God's faithfulness in that place, we were encouraged to mark what God was speaking to us.  For me (and for my family), our "next step" is foster care.  God has been speaking this to me for a long time.  I was in high school the first time God started working on my heart for this "next step".  Bethany Christian Services would send out a brochure with faces of children who were in need of homes.  I remember sitting in the kitchen of my family's cottage, holding that brochure, looking into the faces of these children, and wondering how in the world anyone could say "no" to them.  I was born into an affluent, educated family.  The world was full of possibilities to me.  Why were these kids given such a drastically different reality?  God was speaking to me, even back then.

As I finished high school and went off to college, my heart was always in tune to poverty and brokenness around the world, especially for kids.  God gave me a deep love for children, long before I was blessed with my own kids.  I became a teacher, moved to Guatemala, volunteered with kids at an orphanage, moved back to Michigan.  God's voice never went away.  I continued to hear the call to care for the orphan.  But what would that look like?  I was single, working... God was calling me to it but also saying, "Not yet".

Then I met Chad.  And you know what?  He had a heart for the orphan too.  At one point he even said, "I don't know if I even want biological kids.  There are so many kids in the world without parents, why wouldn't I take care of those kids instead of bringing more into the world?"  And though biological kids weren't out of my desires for my life, when I heard those words, I knew God was not going to take away that calling to care for the orphan.  But God kept saying, "Not yet".  

Here we are.  We've been married 7 years, lived in 3 different states, and have 2 beautiful children.  I regularly hear the comment, "You have a million dollar family: one boy and one girl.  What else could you want?"  But God hasn't stopped pulling on our hearts to care for the orphan.  The calling has gotten louder and more clear.  God is calling us to care for kids in our own community through the foster care system.  Most days, we are excited about it.  God's voice has been clear.  Just as he promised Joshua all those years ago, he promises us that he will never leave us nor forsake us.  

But when we stop to think about all that is involved, it is also terrifying.  Just as the Israelites looked at the Promised Land and allowed the sight of giants and fortified cities to overshadow the goodness of God's promises to them, we can easily look at foster care with fear and anxiety, missing out on what God has planned for our lives.  Instead of running in fear, we are choosing to take a first step into our "Jordan", obediently following God into foster care.  We have no idea what that might look like, but we trust in a God who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Do you hear God calling you to take a next step?  If so, I'd love to hear where God is calling you.  If not, what's holding you back?