The phone call that changed our lives came in December of 2007.  It was from a social worker in Alaska.  I remember some of the things she said– “…two children ages 5 and 2”  “…have been in foster care for a year”  “…Judge wants them placed with family,” and  “Can  you take them?”  I told the worker that we were too old, we were planning to retire and it wouldn’t be possible.

Then we got to thinking.  We like being with children, we certainly have had experience, we were in good health and active, and the idea of children being left in a foster home was disturbing.

So, we kept talking about it.   We knew very little about the children.  A girl nearly 3 and a boy 5.  We decided to ask for more information and in March 2008 we went to meet them. W spent several days with them in a hotel, exploring Fairbanks with them, and talking with foster parents, therapist, and teachers.   The kids were great, they had issues, they  a traumatic early life, but we didn’t learn anything that we found too frightening.

We decided to start paperwork which took several months.  There were more visits with the children and finally during the summer five years ago,  Seneca and Raven joined our family.

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A few days after their arrival

Seneca was so cute, funny and charming.  She loved to cuddle in with a story and was crazy about our cat and dog.    But she was

strong-willed, wanted to be in charge, and had a temper.  We quickly learned to avoid all but the most important issues with her.

First weekend together

Seneca can’t get enough snow

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Seneca’s new bed

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Seneca and our dog Summer

Raven had a great smile, he was well coordinated and active.  He was loving and made friends easily.   He was wary and cautious.  He loved the outdoors, climbing trees and playing at the beach.   He was a quiet boy when he came but soon turned into a chatterbox. I asked him about why he suddenly was talking so much and he responded, “Before nobody ever listened.”  We were happy to be there to listen.

First winter in Port Angeles

Raven loves snow!

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Raven all dressed up

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Two happy kids

Ted and I kept grinning at each other, so far so good!  The summer went by quickly and Raven started first grade at Dry Creek School.  Seneca started at the Lower Elwha Klallam Head Start, and we were able to make some connections with the Tribal community.  The kids gradually learned our family way of doing things, table manners, how to behave in church, how to take care of their toys and pets.  They talked less and less about their foster family in Fairbanks.

We have had many adventures together, a cruise to Australia, camping in our motor home, several trips to Juneau where they were born and where Raven started kindergarten.  We located relatives there which eventually lead us to the island town of Hoonah, population 600, where we met their great, great grandparents and the grandmother, a tribal elder gave them Tlingit names.  We have visited Ripley relatives in Maine and Utah and Arizona.

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Family portrait on the cruise

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In Juneau

This summer a much more mature Raven attended a summer camp with local Klallam kids.  Seneca will attend a science camp sponsored by the Dungeness River Audubon Society.   They are building a tree house, love to paddle around Lake Dawn in our small row-boat, and a few days ago Ted and Raven built a raft to float on the lake.  Seneca enjoys her dolls and develops  long. involved stories with them using her doll house and other props.  Sometimes Raven can be convinced to join in.

Dad and Raven built a raft

Dad and Raven built a raft

Having the kids has changed our lives.  Ted has continued working as he enjoys his law practice and kids are expensive!  Our social lives have been affected as none of our friends have small children..  We don’t have time to do all of the things we want to do, but I do find time for quilting and for dolls.  And it is fun sharing our lives with kids.  This weekend we are camping at an incredibly beautiful campground only 45 minutes from our home.  We had been here but never stayed.  The kids are playing in the river making dams and building campfires at night.  Yesterday we drove an hour to Neah Bay where the Makah Days Celebration was going on. We watched the parade and the kids each collected a sack full of candy as it was thrown by passing parade participants.    We all had a great time.  Sometimes I wonder what our lives would have been like without them.    But we treasure the kids and mostly are very happy that we have them in our lives.

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This summer

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Our family volunteers