Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Melandia

I read a post from an amazing site called the Mighty today.  I felt like jumping up and down, yelling YES after every line, waving it in everyone's face...it's SPOT ON, exactly how I feel right now...I will share the link at the end of my post, but I wanted to expand on it a little.  So many times as a foster/adopt parent, I hear the same comments from people.  I sometimes carry a chip on my shoulder (I know I shouldn't do that - I'm a work in progress!) and get grumpy.  I feel isolated and frustrated that the average person doesn't get me or what I"m going through, but then I remember that they might not really don't know!  Back before I became a foster/adopt parent, I had absolutely no clue.  So instead of being grumpy today, I choose to try and share.  If you are one of my 7 regular readers, none of this is news to you, but maybe it will help others along the way.
You say - "You look tired..." I say - Yep, it's been busy latley! What you should know but I don't say b/c I don't want to scare you off - (from the article) Adoption is the late night researching of attachment disorders, trauma, fetal alcohol syndrome and pouring your worries out in online support groups so you can have the strength to get up in the morning and try again. (I do get up. Every morning. Mind you, not quickly, and I drop the kids off in my jammie pants a lot, but I do get up. My strength is found in the Lord, my kids' faces, my hubby's warm embrace...I yell at the tv during football games, I eat too many snacks at night, and I go to bed too late. But I get up every morning.)
You say - "You're kids are so lucky!" I say - Nah, we're the lucky ones! What I should say but I don't b/c it will make me sound over-dramatic - (from the article) Losing their first family is not lucky; it’s unimaginable, heart wrenching loss that never, ever goes away. (I would like to add that GRIEF is a huge part of adoption and foster care, not in the way you would think. There is grief when a kid returns to the bio parents, of course, but the children themselves are grieving all kinds of losses. Some of us parents might be grieving the loss of our perfect plan too. Which, yes I know is ridiculous b/c God's plan is perfect and way better than mine, but again, there are days when I struggle w/this still. And grieving is not over-dramatic. Grief is real and it's both a burden and a gift at the same time. To miss someone, to be sad about something lost is healthy but oh so hard. I could talk a long time about this but it's not the focus of this post.)
You say - "You have free time, you're a SAHM, right?" I say - Actually I'm pretty busy. I spend a lot of time driving my kids to therapies and hello? Running a house of 6 people? Yep, busy. What I should say but don't b/c some people get really upset - (from the article) People talk about being upset their favorite show got cancelled while you are re-reading a 35 page neuropsychological evaluation through tear filled eyes. (Side note: I have my favorite shows too! This Is Us, anyone? But honestly, I do read lots of medical reports and journals and research and posts from others 'in the trenches'. And yes I cry. I am not a doctor. I do not understand trauma, medical jargon or even why the sky is blue. If a show gets canceled, I do my best to move on. If my kid is denied a therapy or a service that's helpful, LOOK OUT.)
You say - "We don't really hang out anymore...she doesn't seem very friendly..." I say - (silence) (I don't say a word to you, but I lament to my husband - If a friend can put up w/my hot mess, my lack of communication, my venting...then a friendship will happen. Otherwise, I guess I don't have too many friends, just a lot of shallow acquaintances. That's my life right now.) What I wish everyone knew but why bother them with it... - (from the article) They don’t see the late nights, the trauma behaviors, the crying every day over school, endless meetings, judgmental teachers and never ending therapies. (I really don't have a lot of friends. Every single one of my best friends lives almost an hour away to multiple states away. I've tried to make friends here, I have, but who wants a friend who is tired, busy, tangled up in a hard place w/her kids and sometimes carries a chip on her shoulder? Also, it's really hard to be there for a friend w/their own needs when your energy is spent on your family's needs. I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone! 99% of the time I'm ok w/this. Please understand, though, it's hard for me. Hard to be a friend. Hard to make friends. But I do miss friends! This is the duplicity of my life right now.)
You say - "Let me know if you need anything!" I say - We're good! What rattles around in my brain but rarely gets admitted to anyone - Admitting that some days it’s just too much would be admitting you’re feeling like a failure — wouldn’t it? (It's so hard to ask for help. I believe I am the best person for this job/parenting...and yet...I over-analyze, second guess myself and fret fret fret way too much! I have asked for help on occasion and I am promptly amazed to the moon and back how much the people around us are willing to help. We couldn't do what we do w/o some good people around us.)
I really wanted to cut-n-paste the whole article!! I think it has a big impact for me right now b/c we're in the midst of it. There's a lot people don't see behind the scenes when you parent children from hard places. One of my biggest pieces of advice for people lately has been to get to know someone different from you. This applies to a lot of situations. Of course, don't put yourself in harm's way, don't go about it alone - have someone to with whom to process what you are learning, and don't do it if you can't be respectful. But seriously, we will all benefit from a greater understanding of those who are different than us. There have been a few times in life where I have done that and I'm still doing that. I don't regret one minute of getting to know someone different than me. I see the world and the others around me in a new way each time I add to those experiences. I encourage you to read this article, to gain a greater understanding of what people around you may be going through. I also hope it helps you understand me and my crazy good life a little too! (No commas, that's not a grammatical error Auntie! It's not crazy and good, well, it is but here I meant to say that it's crazy good. B/c it is.)

https://themighty.com/2017/11/what-adoption-is-when-you-parent-kids-from-hard-places/

PS - "The Mighty is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities."  That's how they define their site.  I think everyone can find something that makes them feel like I did after reading this article.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A beautiful mess

Wow - it's been too long!  My head has been filled w/useful and useless knowledge lately.  Guess which one is winning the war for my brain cells?  Let's dive right in, shall we?

TPR was granted the other day.  (For those that are not in the adoption/foster care world, TPR stands for Termination of Parental Rights.  Which means the kids are free and clear to be adopted!  Unless a bio parent appeals.  In which case it could be 1-2 years before an adoption date is given.  Not that I would know anything about that...)  It was sort of an unceremonious day.  I walked around for a few days feeling downright heavy that someone's loss will eventually be our gain.  The gravity of this situation is not lost on me.  I have said it before and I will say it again - this world is a broken place and we are not living the lives we were intended to live.  Yes, I am ecstatic about being a step closer to adoption, but oh man - there were a lot of waves of emotion about infertility, 'stealing' other people's kids (yes, people say things like this out loud) and the way God grafts things like trees (read about it here!  Science!  It's cool!) and people in families much the same way.  You guys, when waves rock the boat, I drop the anchor.  I really don't go anywhere (ok that's a lie, I go tons of places, taking my kids to a million appointments and activities...I put about 500 miles on my truck each week, but I don't go anywhere where I talk/really talk to people).  I function in a manner that is one foot in front of the other.  But I survived this round (take that!) and I have more tales to tell!

The boys had their first gymnastics meet!!  Super fun seeing how Moses has progressed and improved!  I was also proud of Bert - out of all the new kids, he was the only one who did not need reminders of what skills or what order they were in for each event.  He just went out there and did his routine, did the events, no reminders and minimal help from coach.  To be honest, I was a little surprised!  Still learning not to sell the little people in my house short.  They are fully capable of big things, just different things than other kids.  The next meet is this weekend and then there's a break until January, I think.  That's when the 'big' ones in Milwaukee start.  My butt is already bleacher shaped so I've got that going for me!!

I entered my 5th decade...no I'm not 50, sheesh, how tired do I look?!  Do the math - 0-10 is your first decade...I'll wait...yep, the 5th decade!  If you hear Aquarius in your head right now, you and I could be besties!  Again, the day was pretty unceremonious, which is how I like it.  I went out to lunch w/my parents which is the best!  They were there on my first day in this world so it's pretty special to be able to share another day w/them all these years later.

The start of this school year has had a few bumps.  Ernie is doing great - I think all the issues we had at the end of the year are ironed out!!  The school district this year decided to do a 'push in' model...for my kids who have educational needs, that means they are now primarily in a mainstream classroom setting, not the small group setting they were accustomed to in the past.  This has caused great upheaval for Bert!!!  Colleen seems to be hanging in there...she has such a great attitude and is always smiling!  For my guy Bert, though, this is like another blow to an already nerve wracked life.  Pray for him.  Little dude is not adjusting well.  As anyone who has parented a child who endured trauma knows, this kind of traumatic experience sends a kid right back into survival mode.  It stinks for the whole family.  It's sort of like starting over from scratch.  In these first couple of weeks of school, I found myself saying "I don't wanna adult today" many many times!  It's quite the job, parenting is....I love these little people w/every fiber of my being and I will skip all the chores in the world to be there for them.  Dust bunnies?  Nope we have a dust farm.  Sink filled w/dirty dishes?  Yep I saw that, just over here rocking my kid.  My kid who is gangly and long and makes me wonder what the weight limit is on this rocking chair...?  I cried when my aunt and uncle brought us this rocking chair...side note - sometimes a shower present is more than just a shower present.  Sometimes it represents so much more!  AND - sometimes that rocking chair takes on new meaning over time and you wind up rocking in a way or w/a person you never could have imagined back when you first considered rocking in it.  Back in the day my grandparents had this double glider thing...I think I need one of those.  I have tried looking them up online but no success.  I'm pretty sure they don't make them anymore!!  Sad face.  I remember many nights visiting my grandparents and 'gliding' on that thing.  I even scoured used sites!  Anyway - let me know if you see one.  I think I could really 'rock out' w/my big kids on one of those!  (This pic is different than the style my grandparents had, but the closest thing I could find!)

We have new chickens!!!  I think since last time I wrote, we have gotten 2 new batches of chickens...So there are quite a few of them now!  It's sort of humorous - the new ones are really friendly and follow me even more than the other/older ones.  Today a guy came to pump out the septic and left the lid ajar.  He worried they would fall in!  I promised him they were bird brains, but not that dumb!  And if it turns out that one of them is, I sure am not going in after it!  We had a good laugh!!

What else...?  Garden did well...I always sort of give up on it at the end.  I think peak harvest season coincides w/allergy season (imagine that) and I sort of avoid going outside much then.  But I did get a ton of green beans!  I didn't dig the carrots yet - should I do that now?  We've eaten 2 of the 8 cabbage.  The pumpkins and squash are still dark green...I think I got them in too late.  We'll see.  Basil needs to be picked and processed.  Maybe this weekend?  I already pulled out dead stuff like the peas and random brown greens.  Overall I am ecstatic that the garden cage worked!  Every year is a learning curve for the next, but now that I'm set up, next year should be smoother.

I've been going to youth group w/Moses and just yesterday jumped into bible study again.  I missed that!  We'll see how it works to shove extra stuff into my busy days but can I just say how weird it felt to be kidless and talking to other adults for an hour??  Scratch that - not weird - AMAZING!!!  I am so scatterbrained and all over the map most days, not really tending to my own soul, so this is good for me.

Well I've got a few more posts started in my head...hope to write more soon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mom's agenda for back to school

I'm making a to-do list.  There are so many things I have been saying. "I'll do it when the kids go back to school" that I know I'll never remember them!  By posting a list here, I hope to refer to it and accomplish it.  The goal is to make an edited post w/them all crossed off soon!  At some point I should sort the agenda items by priority but today it's stream of consciousness typing.

1) Take a nap.
2) Get a massage.
3) Roundup the buckthorn.  (No not like a rodeo - roundup like spray the chemicals to kill the invasive species!)
4) Clean the fridge.
5) Go through mittens/hats/snowpants/boots etc.
6) Print and hang more photos (I have been doing better at this!).
7) Tour the community fitness center and see if that's better than driving to the Y.
8) Downstairs bathroom closet organized.  Ugh.  Not looking forward to it.
9) Organize desk area.  Which would hopefully lead to a bookshelf over there...
10) Go thru school papers and files from last year.  Yep, still didn't finish that!
11) Go thru med files.  I'm keeping way too many papers now that a lot is online.
12) Follow up on our girl's medical file from before adoption.  Still have no access to that.  When another future surgery is being discussed, it becomes clear that it would be good to learn about what happened in the first one.  No cause for alarm, just frustrating that we can't get the files.
13) Furniture re-do in Moses' room.  Looking for a loft/desk combo.
14) Prep a bunch of meat in the instant pot.  Freeze.
15) Clean downstairs bathroom shower/tub and tile.  Or knock it out and put in a new one, which would probably be easier.
16) Put a front on the composters and use the pitchfork to turn it over.
17) Clean out the garden.
18) Pick up in our bedroom.  I'm terrible for tossing stuff on the floor in a hurry and regretting it later.
19) Find a hutch for the dining area.  Or something like it.
20) I should just put all the closets on here.  There's stuff crammed in every one!

I'm sure there's more, but that's a pretty good start!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Random Cobb

Most of you are cheeseheads so you probably know that's not his real name, but when Colleen calls him that, I can't help but snicker!!  We attended a practice recently and they were handing out these 'fans' - which are essentially life sized faces of the players on a popsicle stick.  She kept asking where her Random Cobb fan was...oh man!  It was adorable!
Well, this random update is going to ramble so hang on.  I have been meaning to type up a bunch of stuff about this summer but it feels like the only time I am sitting is in the truck.  But!  Tonight is a Packers preseason game so I'm on the couch (wouldn't miss it even if it's preseason!) and I'm a pretty decent multi-tasker (I prefer that anyway).
First, there was no big trip this summer.  Just lots of little ones!  Plus a lot of family and friend time which is so special and means a lot to me.  Since we were home more, we had the yard sprayed for mosquitoes - what a difference that makes!!  We can actually be outside...I can go water the plants or pick veggies at dusk and barely get a bite.  I hate the thought of chemicals but this year has been SO VERY RAINY and I'd rather enjoy the yard than suffer.  Since we've been home more, I have been able to battle the deer and see what's been planted by the people who lived here before us!  I'm loving all the astilbes in different colors!!  Dave built a garden 'cage' and except for the greens, the garden is huge.  Spinach, kale and basil don't seem to do well here.  I'm thinking of reading up on the soil...I have raised boxes though so the soil is my mix I created.  I'm a little annoyed at having to buy greens but since I double planted green beans, I guess that makes up for it!  Squash, zukes, pumpkins and cabbage are doing well, peas did ok.
Cats and chickens are doing well enough too.  We 'lost' Peyton cat for about a week, but she showed back up!  Took a few days for her to look her usual self but seems right as rain now.  Raccoons have been getting at the chickens again so we lost a few of the chicks we are raising.  There are 19 chickens right now, 5 of which are roosters.  If you want one, let us know!  Not too many people actually want roosters though...it's sort of a joke.  People come over and we try to get them to take a cute roo home...ah well.  I know they are good for the hens.  I'm fairly certain the molt has begun - still getting eggs and the light is on.  Could be the new ones are affecting the old ones.  Hoping to renovate the coop a little before the snow flies.
Dave has been trucking us around, making all of our summer dreams come true (mostly mine).  This guy has some big house projects pending - we miss natural gas!  He's been researching and getting info on that project but also getting some electrical work done on the house.  I can't tell you how selfless it is that this guy spends his summer trucking us around, checking off the honey do list and spending extra quality time w/each of us.
Moses is getting ready for middle school...middle school!!  Oy vey, I need to practice saying it.  He's starting band lessons (saxophone) next Monday and I am so excited!!  When I started band in 9th grade, it was when I realized there were 'others' like me (ESFPs).  I suddenly had an even bigger family of people who didn't look at me weird when I was ME.  Ok, I lied, some of them looked at me weird but then they laughed and joined me in whatever shenanigans I was a part of!  I've been praying over my boy that this would be the year he is able to...not sure of the word...the year he is able to feel at peace and at home.  Middle school is such a crazy time for some people, but it can also be when they find their 'fit'.  He moved up a level in gymnastics this season and if he's anything like his cousin who is one year older, I think this will be a growth spurt year!
Colleen is impressing me w/her social/emotional growth.  This girl is becoming more outgoing and relishing her big sister role (despite being the same size or smaller than her younger brothers!).  We're getting a few health concerns taken care of this summer.  Nothing major but stuff we've needed to work on.  She has been singing a lot lately and I'm hopeful that her genetics being different than mine, she'll have a shot at being in a choir some day!  We discovered painting rocks this summer and that's right up her alley.  She's a crafty kid!  She's been getting so much stronger w/her PT this summer and I can't wait to see what she can do in the school year.
Bert and Ernie are getting tall!!  Bert still amazes us w/his wit and physical capabilities.  He studies movement in others and learns quickly.  He will be joining the gymnastics team this year!  Can't wait to cheer on both of my boys and I'm furiously working on a way for me to be in many places/events at one time.  Ernie, my dear Ernie...hit a few bumps in the road at the end of the school year and insurance caused a few more, but - in true Ernie fashion he just keeps his head up and charges through life anyway.  People keep asking where we are on the road to adoption....we've had court, a few times that were like false starts.  We may be one step closer in mid September - if we talk in person you may already know what that's about, but if you are out of the loop, feel free to ask.  Projected adoption date is easily a year or more down the road though.  We're in it for the long haul!  We don't need a piece of paper to be a family - there was a really special moment last week that reminded me.  After all the fuss of court, the kids spending days w/other people and my momma heart just hurting, we rolled out from the tube pizza crust and made our own pizzas.  The family chatter and camaraderie brought tears to my eyes.  It was so dumb, just 4 ingredient pizzas, totally basic and bland, but they loved every minute of it!  "This is the best dinner ever!"  They were all obviously unaware of my poor attitude about it and the day, and the kids all seemed so happy to sit together, talking, laughing, telling silly stories and singing.   I just let it wash over me, smiling through the tears.  We are so very blessed w/people who help us, support us and pray for us.  They say kind words and encourage me when I feel like the most insufficient of moms.  The trials (both literal and figurative) might knock the wind out of me some days but I survive on the moments like that pizza dinner!
Alright - that's 'all the news that's fit to print' for now.  Let me know if you want to hear more about anything that we're up to and I'll write about it soon!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Foster care 101

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't make her stop teaching!

(...I have edited this post and agonized over it so many times...I have prayed over it and shortened it and added to it and thought of deleting it...I have wanted to write something like it for so long though, so I finally decided to publish it!  As it is!  I won't re-write it again!  I just wanted to make sure you know that I don't pretend to be perfect or know all the answers...but since I/we have some experience in foster care, I thought it might be useful to share some of it.)

A while ago, I posted in my various social media accounts that I was taking questions about foster care and adoption.  Any kinds of questions!  So many people come up to us and say that they've thought about doing it, but...OR they say they want to talk to us about it and they're curious but for whatever reason it doesn't happen.  Sometimes it's hard to find time in our schedules or people are intimidated or maybe they are afraid to ask questions...?  Don't worry, it takes a lot to offend me!!  One thing I have learned from talking to people about foster care (and from my own personal background), is that there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation floating around out there.  I thought I would take this opportunity to write up a primer, of sorts, for foster care and adoption, for those of you who are too chicken to talk to me!  KIDDING!!  In all seriousness, though, please let me know if you have more questions or if I missed something.  Now there's a couple of things we should get out of the way before I address some of the comments/questions I received...

The first thing I need to point out here is that I am not an expert.  I am doing my best to provide info but also to share some real life experiences.  I am a current foster mom, an adoptive mom, and a REAL MOM.  But I do have to give this disclaimer - our experiences are just that - OUR experiences.  You might know someone who had a different experience.  That's ok.  You might know someone who lives in a different state, where the rules are different.  That's ok.  You might find your experiences to be different that ours.  That's ok.  We have so far only done foster care through the public system, in our county and through the state.  We have so far only adopted through our state's public system (WI).  I may not have info on private agencies, but I would be THRILLED if you asked and I could help you!  Please know that most of the data, facts, info etc I have included in this post is based off the the WI public system of foster care.  Alright, now that we've got that straight...let's get to it!

Next - some practical info.  If you are interested in foster care, you probably wonder where to start.  A really great resource can be found here - the WI Department of Children and Family Services website.  If you are looking for specific county by county info, you can find each county's foster care coordinator's contact info here.  Keep in mind that Milwaukee County is separate/different from all the others.  You can find more info about Milw Co. by visiting this site - BE A KID HERO!  There are various private agencies and I apologize that I don't know much about them.  (I've seen ads in the newspaper, so I know they are out there.)  If you or someone you know is interested in foster care but do not live in WI, I can still help you find that info - just let me know.  (Side note, I am not focusing much on adoption in this post, so I'll save those links for another time, but please know that I have tons of both private and public adoption contacts if you are interested!)  Most people start their foster care journey by either making a phone call to the foster care coordinator or they see a poster about an informational meeting and decide to attend.  Once you've made your intentions known to the Dept. of Family Services (or whatever your local agency is called), you will receive a fat packet of paperwork to fill out!  Don't be scared...there's background checks, a list of the regulations, medical forms, etc.  Nothing too serious.  After you turn your packet in, you will be contacted to set up an interview, where they will ask you questions about why you want to do foster care or about your childhood.  I remember being really nervous, but honestly, it's no big deal!  There is also a home study, where a worker will walk through your house and check that things are legal.  (Medications are locked up, there's a railing on the stairs, etc...)  We fretted so much that our house was clean and super safe but padded bumpers on coffee tables are not necessary!!  If something is found to be out of order, you are given a chance to fix it =)  After a bit of back and forth, if everything is set, you will receive your license and your home will be considered 'open'!  Then the fun begins!  You will receive calls about kids and after hearing some details, you can say yes or no to the placement of the child/ren in your home.  Most likely the kids will arrive with a file, which you will stay up reading the first night.  Chances are you'll need to make a run to the big box store to get some things or pull a few things out of storage.  Some people ask friends if they can borrow some things until they can get what they need too.  There's so much I could say about this stage, but there are lots of other things to talk about too, so let's move on.

Often people ask how we came to the decision to do foster care...so I should probably start there.  When I was small, I loved kids!  I couldn't wait to grow up and babysit!!  Sometime in the middle of grade school, I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen.  In no time at all, I made it a life goal to have 12 kids, no 13!  Depending on when you asked me, it was either 12 or 13.  Fast forward to college, when I met a guy who didn't flinch when I told him my life goal of having a large family.  We married and bam - infertility.  I'll spare the details...we had a biological child but UGH.  It was hard.  My pregnancy was difficult, it took so much to get pregnant, and I was sick of being a science experiment.  So many nights crying, yelling at God, asking why He would give me this HUGE desire for a HUGE family but then basically a point 1 percent chance of getting pregnant...!!!  Yep, I was exhausted, probably suffering from post-partum and just generally over dramatic.  My husband had brought up foster care/adoption before we had a bio kid and when he asked again - I freaked out a little.  OVER MY DEAD BODY would I ever give a kid back...once they're mine, they're mine and I would NEVER EVER EVER do that!  (Side note - I have a lot to say about spouses not being in agreement on this topic, but that feels like a whole 'nother post.  I think that both halves of the couple should independently talk to people who are already foster parents separately.  I think they should both do their own 'research'...maybe attend a training or Q&A session...this is just my opinion.  A lot depends on why one person is not on the same page as the other.  Feel free to contact me to talk if you want more suggestions or ideas!  Maybe I'll write a future post...)  So anyway - adoption crossed my mind but that seemed really hard too - I mean, some people go broke trying to do that!  I just couldn't see it.  It was nuts that he even brought it up.  BUT - he made me promise that we'd look into it.  Then....I'm not really sure what happened.  One night I was crying again....and it hit me.  The whole point of foster care wasn't to build/grow MY family - it was to care for a child for a while, so that another family could be built up and restored!  I almost fell out of bed, it was like God hit me w/a 2x4!!  If you knew you could make your community a better place by helping families grow and flourish, wouldn't you try to help?  I love going places and seeing families at the park, at festivals, or other events around town!  Some families need extra time and help to better themselves, and we could be a part of that process.  We didn't jump in right away...but we continued to collect information...we went to an informational meeting on adoption, hosted by a private agency and all I could think of was the ever changing rules, regulations and financial component.  Then we went to an informational meeting for foster care and adoption through the state and I'm not going to lie, the comparison was DRASTIC.  There are so many kids waiting in 'the system', it really tugged at my heart strings....so I was back to the thought of filling my house w/foster kids.  =)  Long story short (or medium?), we fostered a handful of kids before being approached about adopting a child through the state.  Our first adoption was relatively quick, considering everything we have learned since then, and we went back to fostering for a while.  At the moment we are in the process of adopting siblings through the state again, but we are most likely not going back to fostering.  So that's a bit of our back story (I obviously shortened it!) and it should bring you up to speed as to where we are in the process now.

Frequently we hear, "Oh I could never do that (foster care)....!"  To be honest, that WAS me.  The thought of saying goodbye to kids was SCARY and grief is a huge part of foster care, for both the foster parents and the kids in care.  Think of this though - they are taken from the only family/house they know (often by a police officer and series of strangers/social workers) and brought to a new home, filled with strangers.  They truly grieve this and often have no idea how to process these changes.  I tell you this not to scare you away, but to be honest.  My grief of saying goodbye when it's all over, said and done, is nothing compared to what I presume they are feeling when they first come to my home.  I am an adult, I can process my grief, I have an established support system and skills to deal with it.  If I feel it is too overwhelming, I know where to go to get help.  (Side note - call me if you don't.  I know people =)  I can hook you up w/some amazing resources!)  Anyway - yes, saying goodbye is hard. We have had placements come for a weekend, and others that were in our home for two years!!  We made awesome memories, made photo albums for them...we loved and cherished our time together!!  We were sad when they went home but absolutely thrilled that a family was put back together and doing well!!!  That's the real joy of foster care, the hope that can blanket over your grief!!  You get to share the joys of raising a kid!!  One thing I'd like to point out is the fact that Moses was already born when we started.  Which means, he, too, was going through all of this.  He bonded w/our first placement, a boy about 2 years younger than him - we bought matching shirts!  They were so adorable!!!  We told him that we would be A's family for a while and that we would treat him as our son, brother and friend.  We explained that at the end of A's time w/us, we would say goodbye but that he would always be considered family in our hearts.  We talked about families helping families and that to us, that's what makes a strong community.  Honestly, Moses didn't think twice about it.  Obviously there were sibling 'spats' and the usual amount of sibling jealousy, but I don't think Moses ever thought that we were anything but a 'normal' family.  Now Moses is almost 12 and loving 'extra' people comes quite naturally to him.  In my opinion, we don't give our kids enough credit.  First of all, they have no reason NOT to love someone.  They don't ever seem to notice physical differences or care about a person's housing situation or how many items of clothing they have, etc.  They follow our lead, they love easily and are far more generous and gracious than we tend to be.  Yes, we all shed tears when we said goodbyes, yes we all spent time remembering and processing together.  My job as his parent, is to help him do that.  I'm not saying every kid can find it as easy as he does, but you know your kids.  You are the best person for them to take their cues from and you can give them the tools they need to handle the changing shape and size of a foster home.  (Again, I'm not an expert or psychologist, these are my opinions, but I think other foster parents would tell you the same.)

(Remember - if you want to chat more about any topic, if you want to talk further about something I have moved on from, please comment, email, call or ask me in person.  I'm trying to keep this from being the world's longest blog post!!)

Another comment we hear from people is that they are 'too old' to do foster care.  Have you ever had a car that was so old or junky, but you still drove it b/c it was better than no car at all?  (Oh dear, did I just compare more experienced humans who have been on this earth longer than me to a junky car?  That is NOT how I feel about you, but I need this analogy to work, so bear w/me!)  For a child, having no parent is worse than having a loving parent who might not be able to run fast or sit on the floor or do 'new math'.  It really doesn't matter if you can do those things - can you love someone?  Can you give them guidance, feed them, provide them a place to sleep, play games w/them, hug them, laugh w/them, hold their hand when they go to the doctor, tell them stories about how the world works, protect them, pray for them, pick them up from school, cheer them on at their activities, etc?  There are so many things you can do AT ANY AGE that would be beneficial for a child.  I know people who were in their 50s or 60s who have adopted young children just beginning school.  Having a strong community/village around you is a tremendous help!  But it's still possible!!  Now I completely understand if that's just not your thing...but maybe you could be a respite provider?  Respite is the word for short term care.  For instance, when we would go on vacations, there were times the kids were not allowed to come w/us.  In those cases, we set up respite care for the kids.  They spent the weekend w/a family who was fully certified in foster care and were willing to love on 'our' kids for a short time.  There are a lot of people of all ages that do this - they love the short term nature!  They are able to help kids and foster families, supporting them and filling a real need.  Many people enjoy this b/c they don't need all kinds of baby stuff in storage (most foster families send along everything the child would need) or supplies for every age.  They just open their home for a short time (from a few hours to a week, for example) and then go back to their daily lives.  This is a valuable resource for foster families!!!  There is a HUGE NEED for respite providers around here...

...which is a nice segue into another topic.  Lots of people don't feel led to foster or adopt.  There are still many ways you can be supportive or be actively involved!  Besides respite, you could do things like donate suitcases or duffel bags to your local department of child protective services.  Many times when a child is removed from the home, their clothes or personal items (if there are any) are shoved into a trash bag.  Every child, w/the exception of 1, who has entered my home, came this way.  There are great organizations like Sweet Cases (I'm sure there are others!) who give you duffel bags to decorate and then get them in the hands of kids going into care.  I've seen lots of lists of what you could do for families, ranging from things like pray for them to pay for their family vacation!  That doesn't seem too practical for most people, but here are a few ideas that might be right up your alley...
- Ask to redecorate the 'visit room' - where birth parents and their children have supervised visits in the local department of health and human services (or whatever they call it where you are from).  Many times these rooms have a tired old couch/furniture and some outdated toys in them.  Kids go there once or more a week and see the same toys...I know a few of mine frequently complained that they didn't have anything new to do!  Like all kids, they wanted something fresh!  You could stock the room w/new crayons and coloring books, a few new or gently used toys, books or games or even ask if they would be open to craft projects the kids could do w/their parents!
- Bring the families a meal.  Lots of people bring new moms and dads a meal when they have a baby, but not many people think of it for foster parents.  When we get new kids, it's a little chaotic!  A meal would be nice - those having a baby had 9 months to prepare, sometimes all we get is 30 minutes and we are adding a new person (or even more than one person!) to our family.
- Buy them a case of toilet paper (or any common household supplies).  Ok, that sounds weird now that I typed it out, but seriously!  When you add new people to your family, you suddenly start using more toilet paper (or baby wipes).  This is something that sometimes gets left off the list when we make a late night run to the store...And well, we all use it!  It's a gift you don't have to worry about someone returning!
- Get certified to be a babysitter or respite care provider.  Different states/agencies have differing regulations, so check w/the foster parents.
- Ask to 'sponsor' a foster child's participation in an activity - maybe you could supply the child w/soccer shoes and shin guards, or pay an entrance fee to a camp or summer program.
- Offer to go along clothes shopping!  Many times it's overwhelming to take a child whom you have just received into care to the store since you don't know their sizes.  It involves a lot of trying things on and sometimes the kids get bored.  You could help organize the clothes and keep a parent company.
- Offer your photography services.  Only once did we pay for pictures to be taken w/kids in our care.  It's expensive and if kids are coming and going, it's hard to justify the cost.  I wish we had done it w/all of them!!  It didn't need to be professional, but having the advice or services of someone w/photography skills greater than mine (which is not much at all) would have been helpful.
- Use your hobby or interest (besides photography) to help a foster child. For example, if you're mechanically inclined, you might find good, used bicycles and repair and donate them to a foster care agency or a foster family you know.  If you are good at mending clothes, you could help patch the knees of pants (I could really use you right now!!).
- Throw special occasion parties for foster and adoptive children in your area. Help celebrate birthdays or adoption days!
- Truly, just checking in and listening is helpful.  Many times foster families feel isolated and like they don't 'fit in'.  They don't get as much time to practice 'self care' and something as simple as chatting for a few minutes can make them feel welcomed and relaxed.
That's about all I've got off the top of my head...but this list of 101 things is quite extensive.  The needs of a foster family change from time to time, so the best advice I could give is to ask a foster family if they need anything.  They might be to shy or humble to tell you anything, but at least you tried!

Alright, I think this is the world record for longest post...I had better stop here!!!  If you are curious about the length of placements we have had, you can check the 'Our Family' tab for a list of children (aliases used) who have been placed in our home and the dates when they were with us.  As I said before, our experiences may be different than that of others' you know, but it's a good way to quickly show what has happened on our foster care journey.  Thanks for reading all of this!  Thank you to those who have waited patiently - I had at least 3 people tell me they I needed to hurry and finish writing it already!!

One final note - we have found a great network or community of foster care families and we have benefitted greatly from the friendships formed.  We'd like to think that we have contributed in some small way to the growth of that community in our area.  In writing this post, I only hope to encourage and support others who are interested in both joining and building this community further.  If that person is you, dear reader, I would be overjoyed!!  I said it before, but it bears repeating - if we can help in any way along your journey, please ask!  But for now - class dismissed!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fill in the blanks

I posted this on another social media page, but in case you want to participate too...

"I've always thought about doing that..." or "I'd like to talk to you sometime about foster care and adoption..." I feel like people are timid when wanting to as me questions or actually set up a time to talk about these topics. How about this? In honor of May being Foster Care Awareness month, feel free to ask me just about anything. You can comment here, private message me on social media or email me. You can call too! I'd answer you individually, but if you'll allow me to, I'd also like to answer you in a future blog post. (I wouldn't use your name, but I'd ask your permission to use your question.) Please share this post w/anyone you think might have a question/concern/wonder aloud. Thanks! If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find it! I won't be pushy or preachy, but I'll attempt to answer w/facts and personal experience. I am not an expert, but I do know a few things. We've had infants, teens and a few in between! We have only done public foster care/adoption, but I know people who have gone the private route and would be willing to help answer questions too. I'd like to think that dialoguing about this will help educate people and put a stop to false impressions about the nature of foster care and adoption, so thanks for participating!


Monday, February 13, 2017

The thing of the month

In about a month, the TPR (termination of parental rights) trial will start for Bert and Ernie's bio parents.  That is, of course, unless it is re-scheduled like last time.  We never hold our breath - I'm sure I have said that here before...but we are looking forward to the trial beginning.  And ending!!
It's been 13 months since the boys have come to live w/us.  So much has happened in that amount of time!!  This past month to 6 weeks has reminded us that for as many steps as we take forward, we take a few back every now and then too.
Ernie is still a happy go lucky kid who keeps his emotions just under the surface.  He's our little mayor, making friends and leading a charge to do the next best thing.  He is quick to do kind things for others and enjoys the attention of his classmates and family.  Bert has dropped a lot of his insecurities, is starting to really read, and is flying through the swimming classes!  This kid taught himself to ride a bike, do back flips and just the other day he was working on teaching himself to skate like a hockey player.  His awareness of body mechanics and movement is a fun thing to watch - I'm pretty sure he'll excel at most sports if he can get the rules/'the plays' down.
Life has been busy for the rest of the family too.  We're in the thick of the gymnastics season for Moses, which means bleacher butt is a real thing we complain about.  =)  I have a very small part in a play with a faction of the same group I acted with in the past.  It's good to be around 'my people' again - no one gets an ESFP like other performers...!  I've been attempting to cook a few new recipes.  No one has died yet, so they've turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself!  I wanted to write all these big 2017 goals and I'm still not ready.  My head is filled w/things I need to get better at - but the rest of me is still in the mode of putting one foot in front of the other.  Baby steps.  The past 13 months have been pretty intense and although that intensity has decreased, I am being kind to my aging self and taking the 're-entry' process slow.  I've volunteered at the kids' school a few times, I've taken some naps, I've tackled a few house projects, I'm going to attend a 2 day conference, etc...things I couldn't do most of this past year.
I've seen some others post -read, do, be- lists...or something like this...and I've decided to try it this time!  It seems like a quick way to put down some short term goals.
Do: Fix the shelf in my room.  Go through the winter wardrobe and consign clothes.  Better organize the alcove area and get the boxes out of the front hallway.  Get more pictures on the wall!
Read: I'm slogging through some child development/discipline/parenting books right now.  I'm also trying to finish Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  My reading of that book has been interrupted many times - snort!  I'd really like to pick one 'for fun' book to read and of course, establish a better Bible reading time/routine.
Learn:  I'm challenging myself to memorize 5 Bible verses.  I have one down.  Four to go!  I hope to accomplish this before spring break.
Be:  Calm.  This is so hard for me!!  I'm always loud, boisterous and making a fuss about something!  My goal is to bring it down a notch and help my kids in the mornings.  I've been learning so much about regulation and hello - it's pretty hard to model something I probably would benefit from myself.  Last week 5 days went by (I was pretty calm each day) and I gave myself a B+.  I'll take it but I'd like to see that more consistent and sustained over a longer period of time.
One more thing I'd like to 'document' about these days...we've lived on the outskirts of this tiny town for 2 years now and even though I haven't really made any close friends from here, I finally feel like this is home.  I was thinking the other day about the kids growing up as 'country kids'.  It didn't seem like they really were - I mean, c'mon, we run into 'town' a good 4 times a week for activities and therapies, but it feels more real now.  We drink well water and think nothing's 'wrong' w/it, the kids prefer walks in the woods or time at the beach in all seasons over boring city parks, soon they'll be riding bikes to friends' houses which are not really that close, they might get their first job on a neighbor's farm, they'll tell their friends about their house in the woods when they leave 'the nest'...I don't know.  It all feels a lot more like home now.  I still hope we make more connections but we love our church and the friends there, we love the space we have and the wonder of God's creation all around us.  I'm so grateful that we've all found each other and a place to call our own!