Sunday, January 24, 2016

Complex questions, simple answers? or vice versa!

Every time we have received a new placement into our home, it's common for people to see us and ask how it's going.  It's a simple question, really...most of the time we say 'fine' or 'good' and move on.  People who 'get it', though, they know.  
How's it going?
(Do they want the truth?)  "I mean, yeah, overall it's going well...there have been moments...I mean it's hard...but we're all in transition...but it's been pretty easy, I mean...once you've parented a kid, what's a few more, right?"  I find myself stammering around trying to figure out if the people want the long answer or the short one!  
So in an effort to answer the question (mostly for myself to remember!), I thought I'd write a blog post about it.  Then, I can think it through and answer as honestly as possible...
First things first.  I have found a blog name for the 2 boys - Bert and Ernie!  Bert is the older one; he is much more shy and quiet.  Ernie doesn't know the meaning of the word quiet =)  He has no fear, compared to Bert, who at times can be anxious about things, like the kiddie pool.  Bert watches and learns, is quick to give his food, his toy, his anything! really to help his brother's perceived sense of injustice.  Ernie is bold, vocal and strong!  He doesn't let his age, size or circumstances limit him.  They seem so different, yet at the end of the day, both just want to be held and loved.  
So - it is going well.  It's been 9 days since they have arrived and there has been a high level of activity in those days.  They started school!  Bert is in the 1st grade, while Ernie is doing half days of junior kindergarten 4 days a week.  Every day ( Ernie cries when we drop the others off at school...but one of the days we went open gymnastics family time and wow, did we have fun!  Both boys are great sleepers - but we've made sure there is lots of physical activity in our days, lots of gross motor stuff so that helps.  It's nice we can all go for big hikes in the woods, go to the Y or just spread out in our house.  We are 'remembering' what it's like to have kids younger than our own though - as parents, we have to kind of go through a re-entry - this is how we make potty pit stops to avoid accidents, this is how we provide snacks between meals so no one gets hangry and aggressive, this is how we look for signs of exhaustion (rubbing eyes, falling asleep on Moses 1 minute into Bible time, etc)...oh the things we re-learn now that there are 'littles' in the house again!  There are plenty of sibling spats, of course, but there are some really amazing things happening too.  I have to brag on my big kids - one day we had a particularly long time in the truck.  Ernie was just 'done' and 'over it', getting a little stir crazy.  At one of the pit stops, Moses moved up a row next to Ernie and was working on comforting him.  We were all relieved and grateful it worked!!  The next night, Bert really did not want to leave the Y - he was quite grumpy and for the first time we saw real tears from him.  (They were quiet tears, but they were there!)  After tucking the littles into bed, Dave texted me to say that on the ride home, Ernie started singing and comforting his big brother Bert.  "Jesus loves me this I know..."  Dave said he had tears rolling down his face!  I made sure to let Moses know that his action of comforting someone was not only noticed, but followed!!  The littles want so badly to be like the bigs, not just in the fun or silly ways, but in the way they treat others too!!  It was a powerful moment to see my 10yo realize this and make the connection.  He has been so helpful to buckle people in or tie their shoes...Sometimes sharing things like toys or your parents can be hard, but Colleen is constantly sharing her stuff.  Her and Ernie are often playing My Little Pony together and she is quick to make sure everyone has a car or something so that no one is left out.  When Ernie got a free lanyard from the Y for his ID card, Colleen started to bemoan the fact that she did not get one when she was 'new'.  "Here, you can have it!"  Ernie put it around her neck and this momma danced for joy!  I reminded everyone that this 'makes my heart big' to see and hear them loving on each other this way!  Colleen shares her things and the others have taken note and do the same!
Please don't think it's all roses and rainbows...there have been episodes of yelling and shoving and such, but honestly?  Those are short lived and each day that passes has seen these behaviors fall away.  We are figuring out what works and what doesn't.  We've made what feels like a million trips to the box store to be sure everyone has what they need (car seats? check!  socks? check!  a million boxes of cereal? check!) and the logistics of who goes where on what day is coming easier.  Some things we still need to figure out - 1) Date nights.  Dave and I did really good w/this a few years back, once a week we went out after bed time.  GOD BLESS OUR BABYSITTER WHO LEFT US TO BE A MARINE!!!  He was awesome.  Then he left and his sister came a few times - she's awesome too!  But then life got busy and we just sort of forgot to keep that going.  Since we moved, we've gone out maybe 3 times, thanks to our pastor's daughter.  She's a girl we hope to see more of!  I'm not sure in this season of transition we are ready to do that again, yet we desperately need to carve out a few minutes w/o kids.  All the trauma mamas and foster/adopt peoples are nodding their heads in agreement right now!  2) Going to just about any event where there is a crowd.  So far we've been to 2 small events, a gymnastics meet and a small party at church.  Both were acceptable to attend given that they had only one entrance/exit and we could see the kids at all times.  I know we have time to figure this out, but despite having 4 hands and 4 kids, large crowds are just not do-able yet.  Even going to grandma and grandpa's house would take a lot of advance planning and prayer at this point!  We're enjoying the 'cocooning' time and just being us together at home, but spring break is coming!  My teacher hubby is itching to get out of here and go someplace fun!  3) Car rides seem to end in a shout fest.  Dinners go well b/c everyone takes turns telling mom about their day.  In the car, there is always someone who wants music, someone who doesn't, someone who is convinced the other is breathing on them, someone who wants everyone to look out the window at that 'thing' they can't describe...AHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHHHHH!!!  So far, everyone seems to like the country music station.  I've tried the Disney station, general kid tunes, pop radio, etc...BUT!  Long trips (and by long, I mean more than 20 mins!) are unavoidable at times, given our situation, so we do need to figure this out.  Once, I managed to convince everyone to air drum, air guitar and air sing through 2 Led Zeppelin songs and hey, what do you know?  It worked!  (Ok, maybe it came out sounding like a demand, but when we were all laughing, no one seemed to care!  Just being real here!)  
How's it going?  Is that more than you wanted to know?  A lot of people (mostly casual acquaintances) hear me say it's going well and follow up by saying that we're doing something so good and nice...and then I stop them.  It's me/us who are blessed.  Our hearts are full and we are always growing and learning from our kids.  The grace they give me and each other is something truly special.  This road we have chosen to travel has bumps and very few road signs, but we are enjoying the journey and continue to press on toward the goal.
Oh blah, there was so much more I wanted to write about!  But's it's after 8 and due to football and a new improved staggered bedtime for all, I forgot to eat dinner.  We ate a late lunch and I wasn't hungry...but now I am...
All this to say, if you have been praying for us, keep it up!  We have had a lot of answered prayers (which is a whole different post!) but we can always use more =)  Thank you - it's going well...that's the short answer!  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Party of six

Our newest family 'photo'! The new additions to the family (2 boys, they still need blog names) will be coming HOME TO STAY this Friday!!! The adoption process has started but they are technically foster kids, so until adoption becomes official, we cannot post photos of them. The stick figure family will have to do for now! Sorry to our Facebook friends who have already seen this...but I wanted to be sure it was shared here too!!  I can't share much, as most of you know, but I promise that when I can, I will!!  The boys were here this past weekend for a sleep over and it went so so so well!!  It was practically impossible to say goodbye when we dropped them that point we hadn't said much to them about it except that they may be coming to live w/us.  We hadn't talked to the case worker yet (it was Sunday, after all) and we just didn't want to say anything ahead of time.  I can't wait to hug those boys again and have them here finally!!  Like I have said before, please pray for all of us as we transition.  There's school registration to navigate, doctor/medical/counseling appointments to set up, and groceries to buy!  =)  If you would have told me that I would be doing all this in the New Year, I'm not sure I would have believed you!  But I am beyond grateful to be doing all of it...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How did we get here?

This month I am participating in an adoption talk link up.  A bunch of bloggers write on the same topic and the posts are linked up in one place.  The topic this month is Getting to Know You...we're tasked w/telling about ourselves or our family's story.  I feel like I've already done some of that here (a 10 things list!) maybe it's time for something new?  I thought I'd use this space to publicly thank some people who have positively influenced me/us on our journey through foster care and adoption.  I hope it might also serve to fill in a little of our back story and then if you want to read some current stuff, you can find it here...

First and foremost, thank you Heavenly Father for my love of children.  From babysitting, to working at the university's daycare, then to teaching and raising my own children, I have always had a deep love of kids!  I have been blessed w/many opportunities to be around kids who make me laugh, cry and feel young again =)  Also, thanks for the clunk on the head when I was stubborn and didn't want to do foster care.  All I could think about was 'my' kids leaving 'my' house and not being a part of 'my' life after they went back home...thanks for the reminder that none of it is mine, but it's all Yours Lord!  It's been a blessing to call the kids 'mine' for a while, all the while knowing that putting their family back together could mean a victory for the community.  No, it doesn't always end like that, but there are times when it does.  Thank you Lord for helping me see the many gains for all when we simply serve others.

Thank you to Mark (and his wife!) who grew up w/my dad in the same neighborhood...thanks for staying in touch w/my dad.  Your family, made up of birth children and adoptive children of all different colors, abilities and ages, was/is an inspiration to me.  When I was real small, your family came to visit us once.  I decided I wanted to be just like you when I grew up.  Every year you write these notes to my parents at Christmas and I dig through the basket of cards to find yours.  If we were of the same generation, I'd want to be your neighbor and BFF.  Scratch that first part, can we be neighbors and BFFs anyway?

Thank you to that curly haired blue eyed boy who didn't flinch when I said I wanted 13 kids.

Thank you to the pastor's family who has 28 (!!!I think that's right, the # may have changed by now) adopted children, again, of all different ethnic make-ups, abilities and ages.  We have learned much from you and your children...

Thank you to the DV family - we asked you so many foster/adopt questions and filed the stories of your experiences away for future reference.  You constantly reminded us to take care of ourselves and our marriage when we had foster kids!  It's so hard and so so so so important!!  This is something we continue to learn and now remind others about.

And this thank you is embarrassingly late.  Like 6 years late!  To Dawn YH, thank you for bringing a gift over when we received our first foster child.  You celebrated w/me like one should celebrate a new family member!  At the time, I didn't see how huge this was.  Just the other day I woke up crying thinking about you sharing our joy!  You were a living example of Romans 12:15.  A lot of people who don't do foster care or adopt, don't readily understand how much we need gestures like that!  Even though we don't build our family in the 'normal' way, it's still nice to have someone recognize what's happening and treat us 'normally'.

Thank you to Tracy and her family!  On adoption day, we rounded the corner on our block.  We saw a bunch of colorful decorations and thought someone was having a party.  As we got closer, we saw strings of balloons stretched between the trees and OUR house!!!  Thank you so much for getting your feet wet in the snow and taking time in the cold to do that for us!!  We left it up for the rest of the winter and we were 'that house' - every time we looked out the window, we couldn't help but smile!  People would drive by and honk!  This is only a slice of the encouragement and support you have given us over the years.  The tears, the books, the hugs, the food issues/trauma solidarity...and also thank you for speaking truth and life to us about God's plan for our children.  We know it but sometimes we don't KNOW it!  We love you guys so much and are blessed by you in many ways.

Thank you to our respite providers...I hope you know we'd do much of the same for you if ever you need it.

Thank you FB group...I know I can instantly put up ?s of any kind and get rapid responses.  Insurance problem?  Check the group.  Oh wow, the gov system is down for the day!  No wonder it got rejected!  Thanks for the 1800# to clear that up...Have a tax question?  You guys rocked it.  Found the form easily and didn't freak out when we were 'checked'.  And double checked.  Ideas on how to handle certain behaviors?  Book suggestions, webpages and personal anecdotes.  Love it.  Not to mention the way you all 'get it' and are quick to encourage, defend and protect people you will never meet.  You have no idea how much I value the 'village' you are to me.

Thank you thank you a hundred times thank you to our family and extended families!  You pull out extra toys when we come to visit, set extra chairs at the table and buy extra presents for under the tree.  You pray for us.  Some of you yourselves have adopted and we don't talk enough.  I personally am so grateful for the love shown in my family.  Many families say it and of course I'm biased but mine really does show it in a big way.  Countless times my family and extended family have been there for us, from teary phone calls to giving us furniture to feeding my crew.  I don't thank them enough!

Finally, thank you to the kids who have allowed us to parent them, for however long.  I doubt any more than 1 or 2 of them are ever going to read this, but know this: YOU ARE LOVED and MISSED.  You have changed us, molded us and left an imprint on our heart.

As I wrap this up, I realize that I haven't said much about me.  Maybe I shouldn't have joined this link up?  But then I thought about it, and I realized that if you really want to know me, you should really get to know the people 'behind the scenes'...the people who hold us up when we feel like we can't do it anymore, the people who cheer us on, the people who inspired us on this journey!  I wouldn't be ME if it wasn't for these people =)