Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Family Mealtime

This past weekend we were able to enjoy a fun and pretty smart event at our church that involved a panel of high school and college kids who were actively following the Lord by their own choosing.  The topic was something along the lines of "what did your parents do right" and was aimed at the rest of us parents who still have a chance to make good decisions.  The intent wasn't to say that if we followed some sort of parental formula we'd end up with a good kid, but instead was to give us ideas and maybe more importantly to have us honestly think about what we could do to intentionally parent our kiddos.

Besides the fact that therapeutically parenting foster children makes you think about intentional parenting on a more-frequent-than-desired basis out of pure necessity, it was a great reminder.

My husband and I walked away thinking we were doing a pretty good job.  There are always opportunities to do better and we can continue to work on it - that too is a daily thing - but it seems like we might be on the right track.  God help us - and I really mean that.

We also walked away thinking the one thing we want to do better on is family meals.  Actually, considering our circumstances we do pretty well.  It's not so much that we want to do better on it, it's more about wanting to make sure that we're continuing to keep this as an important tradition in our family despite the intense pressure in our schedules to forsake it.

We are only together as a family (can you guess - how many of you already know...?) THREE times a week due to my husband's schedule. Every other week, one of those nights is taken up by church. Another of those nights is an almost weekly dinner with our friends affectionately termed G night. Yesterday we added an activity that doesn't take up the night but at least intrudes upon the regular dinnner schedule.  We only have one kindergartener and we're already feeling the dinner-time squeeze.

Even still, we try to eat dinner together as a family each night.  The dinner with friends is usually around a table, sitting down, eating together.  On nights we eat "on the run" we still usually eat together if for no other reason than our kids are little and still need help eating - it ends up being a family affair.  Most nights even when my husband isn't home I make sure we eat dinner together as a family, minus the hubby.  We don't sit and watch tv.  We do usually sit around the kitchen island, but we do it together, family style.  Even when we go out to eat, we still sit together and make it a family dinner.

Nevertheless, one thing I was thinking was that when there are times where we can't eat dinner together as a family - times where we eat separately due to conflicting schedules or in the car like we do usually on the way to church every other week, we can institute a different-yet-similar concept.

Family Dessert

Usually in our home dessert is eaten on the couch while we read stories, play games, or more frequently watch favorite shows like americas funniest home videos or cops. 

I'm thinking those nights we miss sitting down together and eating dinner, though we'll still try to avoid them, we'll instead do an arguably more fun family dessert.  We can do pizookies (a frequent favorite), plain cookies, or heck, maybe I can even make special desserts for the special occasions like a cake, cobbler, or pie.  I can see us eating apple pie a la mode (though no one in my family but me would eat that) and laughing around the island, talking about our day, just like we would at a family mealtime.

Sounds like a great plan right?  What do you all think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - I can't even pretend to cry today!!!

Can you guess what these are?

Well yes, of course they are little hair bows.  You might add that they are black hair bows with blue and some rhinestone thingies.  If you guessed any of that, you'd be correct - but only partially correct.

These my friends are VERY SPECIAL black hair bows with blue rhinestone thingies.  Not only are they homemade (how fun was that!) but, they match a very special blue dress with frilly black decor.  A very special dress to be worn by a very special girl on a very special day!

As you read this I am either sitting with DFPS for the official presentation meeting, signing papers to make #4 an official adoptive placement, or having a celebratory lunch with my husband after those two things have occurred.  If you're reading later than lunchtime 10/25 then why the heck did you wait so long to check my blog, huh?  I know you have a life but this is our adoption week for crying out loud!  ;)

That's right friends adoption day is just around the corner and these very special black hair bows with blue rhinestone thingies match a very special blue dress with frilly black decor to be worn by a very special little girl (along with some special sparkly black shoes) on a very special day that will be here before we know it.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!  Maybe that's what I'd cry about today...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moolah Monday - Ways NOT to save money

Need a chuckle today? How about a boost in confidence in your own life skills?

Today I bring you a few stories that serve as examples of what NOT to do when trying to be frugal:

  1. Please, please, please, take your child to the dentist when they complain of pain lest you face emergency surgery and a psych eval, not to mention an embarrasing story all over Fox News
  2. Don't be lazy
  3. Don't be overzealous - keep perspective.  A late package isn't THAT big of a deal and it can be solved without guns.
  4. Don't steal, especially from the PTA.  Really. 
  5. Don't put off vehicle safety checks and repairs.  It might be just a few minutes too late.
  6. Don't assault someone to get them to buy something from you - ever, but especially if it will only make you a few dollars.
Hope you enjoyed :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - More on Appointments...

Q: Do you have to do a ton of appointments right away because the kids are normally sick?

A: Yes we have a ton of appointments right away and yes the kids are normally sick. That being said, the “ton of appointments” isn’t usually related to the kids being sick. Let’s untangle all of that.

Kids are Usually Sick
My experience has been that kids entering foster care are often sick. Of my 8 kiddos, here’s how the sickness broke down:
#1 – Complained of “tee-tee” hurting and wouldn’t go to the bathroom. I think it was nerves and fear but I had to get it checked out. She also had a mild respiratory infection. Needed anti-biotics.
#2 – Double ear-infection & bad upper respiratory infection. Needed antibiotics and breathing treatments.
#3 – I don’t remember him being sick at all.
#4 – Many, many ringworms, bad diaper rash, upper respiratory infection, and ear infection. She also had several follow-up appointments for things related to her case including a sleep-study, an MRI, and a pediatric urologist. She didn’t need any of those things, that’s part of her case, but I had to take her anyway.
#5 – mild respiratory infection, allergy related
#6 – mild respiratory infection and pretty good reflux.
#7 – might have had a cough, but otherwise ok.
#8 – respiratory infection

So, yes, they often come into care ill. All of my cases have been neglect (vs. abuse) and so it goes to reason that their medical care had been neglected as well. That being said, all who were ill came to us with medication except #4, and even she had some nasty old medication, so they were getting some medical care. If anything I found that I couldn’t trust what they were prescribed. After visiting the doctor, I was able to cut out at least half of their “regular” medications because they weren’t necessary, or at least they weren’t necessary all of the time.

Ton O' Placements
Yes, you need to take them to the doctor if they are sick, just like you would your biological/adopted kiddos. But those appointments are not what I’d consider “placement appointments” which make up most of the work in the initial few weeks. Placement appointments for an emergency placement include:
  1. Initial placement with caseworker/investigator – Day 1 – takes about 30-60 minutes to do all the paperwork, get the kiddos situated, bring in their stuff, etc. 
  2. Initial parent visit – usually visits aren’t mandated by the court until after the 14 day hearing, but the caseworker often tries to schedule a visit before then. So in the first week on top of everything else you have to remember there will be at least one visit, probably two, and they will be either 1 or 2 hours each, depending on the kiddos.
  3. Initial doctor visit – 14-21 days – this has to be scheduled ASAP otherwise you can’t get into the doctor within that timeline. It’s 14 days for an infant, 21 days for all others. With that little notice at a Medicaid doctor you get what you get for appointments, you don’t necessarily get to choose a great one. With Medicaid there’s also an initial survey thing that has to be done at the doctors which takes a little while especially with trying to manage little kids in the waiting room. You also usually have no idea what to answer since you’ve known the kids for all of a few days. Things like “can they count to ten” – you end up asking the kiddo because otherwise you haven’t figured that out yet. Don’t forget the extra time involved in trying to track down the Medicaid number, shot records, and other medical history ahead of this appointment. That can be a beast.
  4. OH, speaking of Medicaid – you have to do the online intake Medicaid appointment. Someone from the Medicaid office calls and does a medical history interview with you. Again, you have no medical history usually so you take your best guess. They do an initial screening – what are your concerns, etc., then schedule for a deeper screening. Between the two of these you usually have at least an hour invested.
  5. Initial dentist – the child has to have a dentist appointment within 60 days of coming into care. This works just like the first doctor visit – you have to answer all their questions and usually have none of the answers. Also, if you have an baby from 6 months – 2 years old you usually get laughed at – most people don’t take their kids to the dentist that young, whether or not they should, so they’re not used to parents bringing in a toothless 6 month old. Thankfully I have a great dentist but there are still complications involved. 
  6. ECI – Early Child Intervention – Because we usually take preschool or younger, we often (always) have to do an early childhood intervention evaluation. ECI is great because they provide so many services the children in foster care often need to help delays often caused by neglect, like speech, developmental, or other delays. You usually have a 30-45 minute intake appointment where you fill out paperwork and express your concerns and then you have the evaluation, which often takes about 90 minutes. At these appointments again you get all the questions you don’t have answers to, like when they first sat up, etc., but at least they spend enough time with the kiddos to find out for themselves how advanced/delayed the kiddos are in a wide-variety of areas. You get a lot out of these appointments, so it’s worth it. Except that you get tired of the things they have to tell you and give you – I can’t tell you how many ECI booklets I have and how many times they’ve had to tell me that I don’t have to take the services and I can opt out at any time, that I can get an interpreter, etc. Once screening & evaluation happens, they often qualify and start receiving therapy – mine has usually been 1-2 hours per week, but they often do that at daycare.
  7. 14-day hearing – there is often a court hearing where the judge hears the evidence and confirms or denies temporary orders to give CPS temporary managing conservatorship. I like to attend these early hearings so I can meet everyone involved in the case, including the parents and their attorneys. It’s always worked out for me and the kiddos to do that. You as a foster parent don’t have to attend, but I recommend it.
  8. Initial permanency conference – this usually happens around the same time as the 14-day hearing and as a foster parent you are supposed to be notified and be able to attend, but I have had cases where I wasn’t notified or there wasn’t a permanency conference this early on. Highly, highly recommended to attend if at all possible. This is when everyone gets together to discuss what’s going to happen to the child while in care. You learn what the issues are in the case (at least some), what services the parents are attending, what everyone is thinking regarding permanency (which means you find out if there are kinship placements they are looking into), and you get to speak about what you know about the child – one of the few times you get to formally advocate for the child. There is often a follow-up permanency conference at 5 months.
  9. 9 – Initial ad-litem visit – how do you know there is a court-hearing coming up? The ad-litem calls to visit. Here I’m specifically talking about the AAL, the attorney ad-litem, which may or may not be the same as the GAL, the guardian ad-litem. I’m not going to get into that today. But, point is, the child’s attorney often wants to come visit early in the case to meet the child they’re representing and get to know the foster parent a little bit.
  10. 10 – Initial CASA visit – CASA is great but not available or assigned on all cases. I’ve had a CASA appointed to 2 of my 6 kiddos that were with me for awhile. I believe #5 & #6 had one, but they weren’t with us long enough to meet him/her. #1 & #2 along with #7 & #8 did not have a CASA, which in these two cases is a shame. They both could have used one. They were cases from the same county, and apparently in that county there is a shortage. I’ve heard CASA in that county is run differently than the other counties around – maybe that has something to do with it. The CASA visit is just like the initial AAL visit, but usually more warm and more in-depth. Depending on the county, CASA visits 1-2 times per month. I’ve loved our CASAs. By the way, per #9 – when a CASA is assigned that person is usually the GAL – guardian ad-litem.
  11. 11 – Initial legal CW visit - If it is an emergency placement, chances are you initially worked with a CPS investigator – this is the CW that placed the child with you and was involved in investigating the initial case. After the 14-day hearing, the investigator goes away and a legal caseworker is assigned. Both are CPS employees, they just serve different roles. So, usually the CPS legal-worker likes to begin his/her visits shortly after the 14-day hearing.
So yes, there are a lot of appointments to manage in the initial few weeks of a case. If you’re more experienced (or just organized in general) you can make many of them happen on the same day and just stack up appointments, which is helpful for a working mama. Also, when you get used to all of this you start knowing when you can push back on appointment requests to make things more manageable. It also helps when you’re more experienced because it’s likely you have a doctor, dentist, and even ECI team that you’re used to working with so they know you and the challenges you face in getting all these appointments scheduled in such a tight timeframe – they typically work with you. It makes it much, much easier that way.

#7 & #8 were not emergency placements - they came to us from another foster home, which meant several of these appointments were not necesary - that was nice.
If your child goes to daycare because you work full-time, there is a whole additional component that needs to happen. We’ll talk about daycare on the next installment of Foster Parent Fridays. I have a lot to say on foster-child daycare and a few of you have asked how that works.

See you next week!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Goodbye #7 & #8!

Earlier this week I told you that #7 & #8 went home.  In honor of Tuesday's Tears, I focused on the gut-wrenching part of their departure and how we felt.  As has been our experience, when foster children leave there is actually a strong ambivolence and that is probably strongest with the end of this placement.  Leaving the story with the tears would not be telling the whole story, at all, and it's really important in my mind that I also convey to you something that is very hard to explain - there is a joy in having foster children leave. 

That is very true in this case.

I went through the case in the earlier post - how we never really knew, even until the moment they left (which was 45 minutes later than planned, go figure) how this case would turn out.  And if I learned anything about foster care-to-date, even when they leave the case is far from over.  All of our kiddos have come back into care and so far we've been asked to take them all back.  It's a bit early for that to have happened in this case.  Surely they can make it through one week.  And while we hope that they have a successful return home (really, we really do), it's not something we're necesarily counting on this time.  We didn't expect it in other cases, but we do expect it this time and that in and of itself contributes to the sadness for the kiddos.

So we were in limbo the entire time on where their case would lead. This was very bad for the kiddos because #7 especially needed a lot of help understanding permanency and since we didn't know what that looked like it was hard to help him feel safe. What a tradgedy of the system this time.

But we're still thankful they have gone home.  Maybe it's God's way of preparing our lives to be foster parents, but when we know children are going home we begin looking forward to life without them.  This is very hard to explain.  It makes us sound like we have no heart.  When I answer "not really" every time someone asks if it's hard for kids to go home, it's not because we don't experience pain but rather because we've learned to let that go and focus on the bright side wherever possible.  And there's almost always a bright side.  I'm sure of it.

Foster parenting is hard.  Parenting 4 kids is hard.  Parenting 2 2-year old girls and 2 boys (4 & 5) is hard.  Therapeutic parenting is hard.  Having a child in the home whose RADish is hard.  It's a lot of work!

Is it really all that hard to believe that there's some relief from going from all of that to one 2 year old and one 5 year old, neither of which are very high-maintenance? 

We're enjoying our rest, we're enjoying that things are easier, but most of all we're enjoying the peace in our home.  You see, the behavior we've experienced over the past 6 months has been constant opposition.  It doesn't matter what you ask/tell one of our children to do, it was almost always instant opposition, a fight, whining, crying, tantrum throwing, and it was not a 2-year-old.  It did get better through therapeutic parenting - we were able to curb the "vomiting on command" and reduce the length and intensity of most opposition, but it was still there.  Constantly.  Now add to that behavior the behavior that naturally comes with 2 2-year-olds and an annoyed "big boy" and you get a lot of chaos.  It was a managed chaos.  We could handle it.  But it was exhausting.  

Now imagine all of that as a single parent.  I'm not one, but 4 days a week I am including weekends, my days off from work which means I only get to co-parent 3 weeknights each week.  That's it. 

Now add-in all the chores that we have to do.  Remember all the behaviors and the schedule.  Now think about taking them all grocery shopping. The trips are long just because there are 4 kiddos in tow but they are long because of the amount of groceries that need purchased.  Think about all of the laundry and how all of it needs to be done either after the kids go to bed or while the kids are playing with it...

Need an example - some imagery? One night a couple weeks ago I finally got to the laundry about 8pm on Sunday night. By that time I had about 9 loads of laundry waiting for me to fold, hang-up, iron, and put away. Except I can't put most of the clothes away because then I'd have to chance waking the kids up as I go in their room (that's where hubby's schedule helps...he can put away for me when kids aren't home!). So I spent 3 hours just folding and then about 11:15 pm finally started the process of getting ready for bed. No time to iron, hang-up, or put away. Hubby doesn't have much time Monday's to put away, so I usually get to it Monday night or he gets to it Tuesday mornings. (I also usually get some of it done over the weekend so it's not 9 loads all at once, but I digress...). Except, for whatever reason that weekend the kitchen was also a disaster so I made the decision to let the kiddos play while I cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen after dinner MOnday night. I have an open floor plan and should have realized what they were quietly doing but they seemed happy so I didn't interrupt. When I finally had the kitchen sparkling I joined them in the living room.
They had thrown ALL of the laundry that I'd folded the night before into a pile on the living room floor (which hadn't been vacuumed or swept yet so you can imagine it wasn't THAT clean). Now it's about 8pm on Monday night, I have to get the kiddos off to bed, I've just spent a few hours cleaning the kitchen, and now, I know I have to refold all of the laundry - which I knew had taken me 3 hours to fold the night before.

Are you pausing to bow your head and collect yourself yet?  That's about where I was.  A big sigh.  A deep breath.  Then back to it.

That's what it's been like for the past 6 months.  It's been hard. 

Now that #7 & #8 are back home, presumably happy and with their reunited family, our family is back to a family of four.  One incredibly compliant and pleasant and intelligent 5 year old who is really sweet.  One good-natured and adorable just-turned-two little girl who we're all giddy about because we're about to adopt.  They play well together.  Less laundry.  Less groceries.  Less work.  No more defiance and opposition beyond that naturally expected from a 2-year old and that which is easily manageable. 

Can you see how sending foster kiddos home might be rewarding too? 

Don't get me wrong, it's been incredibly rewarding being their parents.  We love them.  We wish the best.  We love having a big family and though the work is daunting there is also that much more joy from laughter and all that comes with lots of kiddos around.  Good stuff.  There's nothing like that joy you get as a therapeutic parent when one of your kiddos has a breakthrough moment. 

It's worth it, which is why we'll continue to foster.  We're not currently on the list.  We've agreed to wait at least until the end of next week to enjoy this downtime and then we'll talk about it to see if we need more time.  We'll see.  We can't imagine not having more kiddos in our home and doing it all over again.  Call us crazy, but we love being foster parents and can't imagine having kiddos out there who need a home who'd fit with us go to another bad fit just because we were afraid of more craziness. 

We'll keep you posted on that.  Right now we're enjoying our little break and looking forward to #4's adoption, which is scheduled next week.  That's right - it's actually scheduled to be done and over with by the end of the week NEXT WEEK!!!!  Can you believe it? .....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Breakfast & Lunch

As a working mama, breakfast & lunch are two meals that are almost always eaten out of the home.  If we're not careful (and we're not always careful) we can easily end up eating out for breakfast and lunch too.  That's not good for our stomachs or our wallets. 

I haven't quite figured out how to avoid too much eating out.  I mean, the solution is obvious - prepare meals at home.  It should be esay and frankly it is except for our apparent aversion to eating leftovers and delight in treating ourselves by eating out.  I can't tell you how often we have really yummy leftovers that go bad because we just didn't eat it.  I also can't tell you how often I've lost tupperware in the fridge here at work because I left it in there so long I forgot it was there on deep cleaning day (which is this Friday...better go take a look!).  I'm not mad about it - it's what I get for preparing a decent lunch and then choosing to go out and buy something anyway.

Nevertheless, I'm trying to do a better job at preparing lunches that I eat and making sure we eat breakfast out only on sporadic occasions.  It's easier now that I have two kiddos who need to eat breakfast at home instead of one.  It used to be that the fosters attended a school that fed them breakfast while Logie had to eat breakfast before school.  He's not a big eater in the morning so that usually meant a piece of fruit or a cup of cereal with milk that he "ate" on the way.  Now that #4 is in school with him and has to eat breakfast early too, we are getting up earlier, eating breakfast together at the island, and then going to school (and work) all filled up.  That has helped me not buy out this week much.  Except of course daddy thought it would be special to take them out to donuts before school this morning.  Such is the life of a daddy who works a different schedule!  Not taking that from him.  Especially since I have a few pancake days up my sleeve...

For breakfast then I'll eat cereal with the kiddos (we love frosted mini-wheats) or yogurt with berries and granola and sometimes I'll add my homemade Chai that I drink on the way to work.

For lunch the kiddos eat at school, except on Fridays when I need to make their lunches.  I almost always make "ham and cheese rollups" - nothing more than ham and cheese rolled up with a tortilla and mayonaise.  My kiddo prefers that over anything else, even store-bought lunch or PB&J, and LOVES that his mommy makes it for him.  I'm cherishing these days and hoping #4 catches on to the love of rollups.  We've also added a rotating lunchables day - not that I love lunchables and wouldn't go for the crackers and cheese (unless homemade) - he picks the pizza which is still gross to me but it comes with fruit and water so I compromise there.  #4 isn't going to get the rotating lunchable day for a long time!

Lunch for me most always consists of the remaining leftover as a core element - usually a meat of some sort, this week it has been leftover tamales - edamame from Costco (really convenient), a piece of fresh fruit (oranges are my favorite), and a diet soda, usually Coke Zero but can be Diet Pepsi if my mom has been in town recently.

Of course, I often forgo the prepared lunch for yummy alternatives - a "Steak Queso Burrito" from Qdoba or In-N-Out.  Those two get me to stray from my prepped lunch all-too-frequently. 

What gets you to stray from your more healthy/cheap lunch and breakfast?  Please tell me I'm not alone here...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Goodbye #7 & #8

I do believe I've mentioned before that #7 & #8 were going home. This wasn't a surprise to us. We've been told since they arrived at the end of March that they'd be going home soon. Soon was originally supposed to be June. Then, low-and-behold June came and suddenly it was "maybe they won't go home...ever". Ok. Then July came and went with nothing more than a special permanency conference scheduled mid-August, still with the background of "maybe they'll never go home...". Of course, that was to their original home. They had different dads and there was the lingering possibility that they'd go home with their separate dads. Maybe.

No new word as August comes. We planned to attend the permanency conference in person, no-matter-what, but then my uncle died and we had to travel, that week, far, far away to his service. So instead, I attended by phone which wasn't optimal but served the purpose. In only a few short minutes an attorney was talking and saying something to the effect of "Well, blah blah blah, we'd like to have return-to-monitor, blah blah blah, but we know the state isn't going to agree to that, blah blah blah blah blah."...finally the caseworker jumped in (she had been patiently waiting for him to stop talking), and she said "well actually we are going to agree to return-to-monitor".
It was good that I was on the phone. I have this reputation for wearing my reactions wide out there on my face and this was one I wasn't going to be able to mask. No one expected her to say what she'd said. Clearly the attorney's weren't expecting it. I wasn't expecting it. I'm sure the parents weren't expecting it. They then spoke about timing which was very vague and fuzzy - you know, when we can get before the judge and when we can tie up some loose ends and when we can schedule some transition time between 2-4 weeks for them to go back and forth, transition slowly, maybe around the beginning of September.
I was shocked, devastated, and ecstatic, all at the same time. I was worried for our son who'd grown attached to these two. I was worried for these two because they need stability and not to be pawns of the system. Now we had a new future to look forward to soon. And a time frame. This case had been up in the air so long it was nice to know where it was headed.
September 1 came and went without any more word on the progress of the case. This made it very difficult since both kiddos needed doctor appointments soon and we were in the throws of birthday party planning. Should we find a dr and schedule appointments? Will they be there with us when the time comes to go to said appointments? What about the birthday party for #8 - will she be with us on her bday or will she be home already? Decisions, decisions.
Finally twoard the end of the month there was a hearing. It had been 6 weeks since the decision to return-to-monitor had been made. At the hearing everything was confirmed, including a schedule to begin transitioning with the final return date of 10/15. We finally had a date. #7 screamed and threw fits. He didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay with us. I assumed he'd need extra care, but I assumed he'd adjust to be excited to go home with his mother and all would be fine (until he came back into care and was permanently scarred, again...).

It was a bit of a difficult transition but it was manageable.  You feel so bad when a 4-year-old one second is begging to stay with you and not go to live with his mommy and the next begging you to go with his mommy because he just got in trouble.  Everytime as a family we were making plans we had to remind him that he wouldn't be with us anymore when X happened.  My husband went camping which spurred our son to plan a camping trip for our family.  #7 really wanted to go camping but my son calmly explained to him that he would be living with mommy H and not us so he couldn't go.  Oh the meltdown.   How do you explain to a kiddo that he is wanted and yet tell him he's not going to be part of your family anymore?  Especially when you are one of the only adults he's learned to trust?  Painful.

Everyone asks if letting them go is hard.  It is, but not for the reasons everyone thinks.  They think, naturally, that you get attached to them and giving them up, not having them in your life anymore, is the hardest part.  That the loss you feel as the parent is unbearable.  God prepares those He's called.  We do miss all of our kiddos, but it isn't hard, especially because it's paired with things that we as parents enjoy, like a more peaceful home, easier grocery shopping trips, less laundry, and more sleep.  The hardest part is what I've described above - not being able to keep the kids safe once they leave, and not being able to choose to give them the permanency they need in your family.  Working really hard with a RADish kiddo so he feels safe and loved and learns to trust adults and a real family only to "push him out" like everyone else has so far.  That's the hard part.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Say What (?!?) Sunday - Consideration

Today's post is less about the words used and more about the action.  It's also less about Sunday and more about Monday morning - it's my blog and I can change the rules if I want to :)

This morning we were getting ready to get in the car to head to school with our new morning routine.  #7 and #8 went home over the weekend (I'll talk about that later), which means life in our house is much simpler.  To help it be even more simple, we moved #4 to her new school, the same as her brother, because she will be adopted in 10 DAYS!!!! and in less than that won't qualify for state paid daycare anyway, so we took the plunge to move her now. 

As we were getting ready to go...

Mie: Logie, can you do mommy a favor?
L: Sure! (really, he was enthusiastic about it!)
Mie: Logie, can you get mommy a water bottle, you know, the ones in the pantry?
L: Why mommy?
Mie: Because I need to take my (allergy) medicine and I'd like to drink it on the way to work.

So he cheerfully does it - what a blessing to ask a child to do something and he willfully does it with joy!  Oh how we're enjoying our home right now without #7 (and #8).  Then he comes back.

L: Here you go mommy (2 bottles in hand).  Here's one for your medicine and one for on the way to work.   Or, if you don't want it on the way to work, maybe you can drink it at work, you know, if you get bored.
Mie: So if I get bored at work or need a break I can take a drink of water?
L: Sure! 
Mie: Sounds great Logie.

I told him as best I could, but I don't think I could ever tell him enough how much that meant to mie.  How his thoughtfulnes just resonated with my spirit.

This weekend was peaceful.  It was still busy; we still had lots to do.  But it was peaceful.  We needed peaceful.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buck the Adoption Trend.

I just read a great post from Penny that referred to this article by Russell Moore. Both are great reads. Seriously, go check them both out.

I for one believe that more people could and should be foster parents and should adopt as led. So many people tell mie that they're amazed at what we do as foster parents, that they couldn't do it. I disagree. I believe most people could do it. We are not saints. We are regular, imperfect folks who have made the decision to be vulnerable to provide a temporary or permanent home to children who need one. We've opened our hearts and daily lives to be used, to be parents to kids who weren't placed in my womb through the traditional procreational activity of marriage but entered our home through a successful phone call and knock on the door. Even still, it takes a great deal of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional strength in our relationship with Christ and our marriage to make this parenting happen, just as it does with "regular" parenting. And I'm fortunate to speak to both having 1 biological son, 8 foster kiddos - 1 pending adoption. But we're not amazing, just obedient.

And though this isn't the point of the article, it is the key point of my post today - obedience. We didn't seek out adoption to have this cute little baby in our homes. We also didn't seek out foster care purely out of a benevolent, obedient spirit. Truth-be-told, I strongly believe that if God spoke to us about foster care and adoption outside of fertility we'd be right along side all the folks who think we're "saints" - we wouldn't have been obedient we'd have filled our (smaller) home with biological kiddos - somewhere between 3 & 5 - and would have rejected the idea of being foster parents, if for no other reason than "we couldn't do that". So, we were dealt infertility, our choice to procreate was not granted/taken away, and we were led to the point of being foster parents hoping to adopt. It was only at that point that our hearts became (somewhat) obedient to be foster/adopt parents. Ultimately, our goal has always been to be great parents to the kids God gives us, a goal simultaneously selfish and obedient. Therefore, I'm not queen-super-cool-caring-benevolant-Christian trying to preach to you but instead would try to persuade you to consider how you can contribute to caring for the orphaned.

Obedience. Have you heard about the trendiness movement in Christian circles to be foster parents or adopt? I've heard about it on the periphery but haven't experienced it myself. I think both Penny & Russell Moore's perspectives are good, but I'd add another reason to not adopt.

You might not be called to.

Oh what an out. It's easy for folks to ignore the pulling of the Holy Spirit by saying something like that. The truth is though, that you (or someone you know) may very well not be called to foster or adopt. It is a decision that needs to be made with great prayer and petitioning, not because of the impact it would have to your life, but because you need to know if this is really what God wants you to do. From my perspective, fostering when you aren't called to is just as "sinful" as not fostering when you are called to. Another example I use is that of a doctor. A certain doctor left his practice to go be a missionary in a far-off land. Surely with the skills he had acquired and blessings he'd been given he should give up his riches in his hometown, his "easy" life with an established practice, and sacrifice out there where people have nothing. He did this intending to be pious and earn crowns in heaven. Unfortunately, the practice he'd established had him interacting with folks on a daily basis that God had ordained. It gave him a platform in his hometown, his state, his nation, that enabled him to speak about the things of God with people who respected his opinion as a doctor and who would never have spoken to a pastor. It gave him an income that allowed him to finance things that others couldn't - when the youth needed scholarships for their camps he could write that check. But because he wanted to appear to live more holy serving in the mission field in some far-off land he forsook the mission-field he was created to serve-his own backyard.

Do you get it? Sometimes we get caught up in the trends and move with the crowd (sometimes known as our church) and we fail to pay attention to the calling each of us has, individually.

So, should you adopt? Should you foster? I don't have the answer for you. I stick by these basic ideas:
  1. I believe more people could and should foster/adopt but they choose not to because of the work it would entail and the fear of how it would impact their lives (or, the lives of their family members). In other words, it will be hard.
  2. All Christians are called to care for the orphans and widows.
  3. Not all Christians are called to adopt or be foster parents.
  4. Christians should follow the will of God as he has set out for each of his children.
Therefore, if you are a believer you need to diligently seek the Lord on how he wants you to care for orphans and widows. You need to honestly search the Word and pray about becoming foster parents or adopting. You need to come to a conclusion not based on wanting to have a squishy baby or based on wanting more rewards in heaven but based on what God's will is for your life. And finally, if you are 100% sure that God doesn't want you to be an adoptive or foster parent, you need not be. That being said, if you're in that boat, you need to find some other way to care for the orphans. That could be donations to charities, that could be time serving repairing group homes, that could be bringing a meal or volunteering to babysit for your friend who is a foster/adopt parent (wink wink, but seriously though!).

You are called to care for orphans and widows. And there are plenty of them that need cared for. You may not be called to get licensed, but you are called to do something.

I'm here to help if you need ideas :)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Balance

I've been talking to a sweet lady through email recently who found me through my blog.  (I just love that!).  She recently asked me a question that I know many of you have either asked or are wondering, so I thought I'd answer it here for all of you to read.

Q: Do you have to balance/organize thoughts around being a Christian woman, a parent, a foster, and someone with a career at the same time?  (For the question I used her direct words - please know if you email mie I don't share our conversations or your name unless you ask me to, other than these types of questions where I can address generically to all as I'm doing here.)

A:  This question is most easily answered yes, of course.  Honestly, I think most women have to figure out how to balance the components of their lives, and for every additional component that is added there is more balancing that needs to be done.  Here was my answer to her question -
Honestly, this isn't a huge struggle for me. The hardest struggle for me is not being a stay-at-home mom, not because I think that's the more "holy" thing to do but because as a bio-mom and a foster mom, all I want to do is spend time with my kids and husband most of the time! (By the way - before I gave birth to my son, I didn't expect this - I thought I was someone who would be better as a working mom, that SAHM wasn't for me...that changed 100% after my son was born and then even more after I had my first placement).  I'd love to do nothing more than spend time with them and be a homemaker - I love all things homemaker-ish. I could bake and garden and play with my kids and teach them and go shopping and cook and be crafty all day long. I love going on walks like to the park and feeding the ducks and going on nature walks to learn about the environment. I really think I'd be a perfect SAHM. Unfortunately, that's not the path God has me on right now. He has me working, making a great impact in the professional world, in the world of education, in the lives of the people I work with. He has me helping my husband provide for our family so that my husband can do an honorable yet not-well-paid job and we can both be givers both in time and money. We now have a home that could house pretty much as many children as they'll let us have and plenty of space outside where they can play. We own two houses now where we can bless another family by allowing them to rent out the other place for a discounted rate so they can have a safe, worry-free (hopefully!) place to live. All that stuff wouldn't be possible if I weren't working. I'm not saying God won't change our situation. All of that "stuff" could be gone tomorrow and we could be living in a tiny shack barely making ends meet. I don't know - we'll see what He has in store. For today, I just do what I think He's asking me to do and right now that means I work.

I gave my heart and my life to Christ a long time ago. I'm fortunate to have done so in a community of believers who passionately loved Christ and sought to live His will fully every day. None of us are perfect, but we sure tried to live with passion and purpose every day. So now I have this strong background that helps me put my priorities together. First I will live for Christ, which means I put His plan and will ahead of my own first. Then I live as my husband's wife. Our marriage comes second only to my relationship with Christ. Thankfully he is a Christian also, so that usually doesn't conflict. Third comes our children. Clearly this means our bio and/or any adopted children. Foster parenting is a ministry which technically would come after my children and in this case it does too. However once a child is in our home that child is treated as if a full-blooded bio-child and therefore receives the same priority as our other permanent children. Practically, this means that our children, all of them, come 3rd behind our marriage and our relationship with Christ but if and when we have spaces in our home we don't automatically just fill them, we do have to consider how taking a new placement will impact our marriage and our children currently in the home. Only 4th then does my work come into play. I try to keep my work in perspective as well. I work to provide, I work to be obedient, and I work to minister to those I work with. If I find myself enmeshed in a project or feeling pulled into something to the point where I'm harming my top 3 priorities, then I have to make adjustments to my work because that's how I prioritize. This is so engrained in me that I don't really think about it!

It's not always easy.  Things do become frustrating, primarily when my husband wants me to do something that would result in less time at work.  As an example, 2 days a week he is responsible for getting the kiddos ready for school and taking them so I can go in to work early.  This buys me the freedom on the 3 other days to work a shorter day (maybe 9-4:30) so he can get whatever sleep he needs and always be at work on time.  But, often, he asks if I will stay and help him get the kiddos ready.  I oblige, not only because I want to be helpful to my husband but also because I like doing that with my kids and seeing them in the morning.  The consequence is that I work a shorter day on days I've committed to working longer days.  This also happens at night when he wants me to come home earlier and not stay later on my "long" days, which ideally would be 9-10 hour days, not 12-15.  In any case, it frustrates me because he wants me to work and enjoys the financial aspect of my job but doesn't necesarily like the consequences - it puts me in a bind.  I'd be happy to quit working and stay home and always have a meal ready and always let him sleep in and always take care of the kids and always be home early.  That at this point just doesn't gel with his desire for me to keep my current job (or, at least salary!).

SO, those are the types of frustrations and therefore prioritizations that I have to make.  Thankfully, again, it's automatic in me to choose my husband and family first over my job because that is the engrained prioritization.  My thought is that if I honor Christ in that way, he will take care of my employment or, if I make the choice between my marriage and my job and end up losing my job that He will provide for us or be taking us down a different path.  I can only do what I can do.  Also, thankfully, my husband and I have learned to communicate in this area so that we can not get frustrated with each other and when I need to work longer or feel I need to work longer then I can talk about that with him, he can express his feelings on the matter, and we can come up with a solution that meets all of our needs most of the time.

I hope that helps.  It's not meant to mean I'm supermom and can handle it all without batting an eyelash.  That's not it at all and yes we struggle sometimes and yes we're tempted sometimes and yes we fail sometimes at all of this prioritization stuff.  As I said, I can only do what I can do and have to trust that God will take me where he needs me to go as I try to remain faithful to what he wants me to do. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Celebrating Return-to-Monitor

Oh, the irony.

How is it that a post with the word "Celebrating" and "Return-to-Monitor" qualifies as Tuesday's Tears?  Makes perfect sense to mie as the author of the post but nonetheless objectively I can see the weirdness.  Let me unravel my thoughts.

Return-to-monitor.  #7 & #8 are scheduled to go home at the end of next week.  I don't think this will be good for them overall.  #8 has finally bonded to mie - I don't think she's really bonded to anyone else except her brother in her life - and I'm going to be "leaving her".  That's painful.  I'm devastatingly worried about #7.  I'm not comfortable that biomom & stepdad are going to be permanently able to care for him, especially what I know now about the case and frankly, #7.  I am trying to be ignorant by choice about how this could all turn out and hope that God will be permanently attached to his heart and be his physical and spiritual savior.  That he will be redeemed from whatever damage has been caused to him in this foster care situation and that I will be ok with the fact that I won't have control over his future. 

Celebrating.  So we're choosing to celebrate return-to-monitor.  The goal for foster care is to protect kids and secondarily to reunite families if that is the best option.  It has always been the goal for these kiddos to be reunified with their parents.  Always.  They've been in care nearly a year and they've always had a stated goal of reunification.  So now, here we are.  They get to go home.  We're choosing to celebrate the reunification of this family.  Rejoice. 

All that aside, and more important today are that we are celebrating the return-to-monitor for very selfish reasons.  We are confident that there will be lasting damage and that without intentional intervention with skilled parenting and therapists there will be little chance for wholeness and redemption in the phsyical realm.  That left to the path they are on, going home to individuals who may or may not get really stressed out to the point of wanting death due to the responsibilities of parenting, struggling with attachment and emotional and behavioral challenges - all of it seems to be leading to disaster.  But parents want them home and they, #7 at least, want to go home, at least some of the time, usually when he's in trouble for doing something crazy he shouldn't have been doing.

So why do we celebrate then?  Why are we super excited and waiting for next weekend to come?

Because we are at our limit with this case. Let mie say this - if God decides for some reason that he wants them to stay we know He will provide a way and some relief. But at this point we are done. D - O - N - E.  We are frustrated and stressed and irritated.  We can't stand certain behaviors.  These behaviors are constant and take a lot of parenting effort.  They make us tired.  They make us cranky. 

Let mie also point out that we have good coping mechanisms and stress-relief techniques.  We have a good support system.  When I say we're at our limit, that doesn't mean we don't show our kids love or that they are in any kind of danger as they could be in homes where parents get stressed.  We know how to handle it, we just don't want to handle it anymore.  We love the kiddos in our home and continue to show them their value and worth as children of God.  Internally though, shared between my husband and I, we just don't like certain aspects of parenting certain children right now.

Practically, this is how that works out - in a conversation this morning #7 began to throw a fit and in his own unique combo of screaming and whining said "But I don't WANT to go to live with them.  I SAID I want to visit them".  I then reminded him, before I shut the door that he had fun at her house at the last visit and that he said he wanted to go live there.  Then I said he would be going to live with her soon.  Then the door closed to the car.  In the half-second between the door closing and opening my own car door I closed my eyes and said to myself "Thank God.". 

I find myself thinking these types of things more frequently now.  On my way to work after dropping off the kids I wanted to scream out "I can't WAIT until next weekend!!!".  Though these things aren't inherently bad, they are just things I don't want to be thinking.

And that is where Tuesday's Tears come in - I am sad that we are so excited for this return-to-monitor to happen.  I'm sad that I feel we're "giving up" on this kiddo.  We're not.  We've done a great job parenting so far and it isn't our choice that he's going home.  But we're not sad about him going home.  We can't wait.  And that makes me sad. 

Is it really ok to be sad because you're not sad?  Hmmm...

Thankfully, as I said, we've got a good support system and by the end of the day I'll be feeling relief again and we'll have a good day with #7 & #8 and he'll go to bed with a smile and so will I.  And all will be well with the world for the night.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Say What (!?!) Sunday - Party Request

This weekend we celebrated Logan's birthday.  I wanted to cry the entire weekend.  I can't believe he is growing up.  Furthermore, I struggle with feeling I'll never be able to show him how much he is loved and how special he really is.  Then top it off with his usual conversations like this one, and it just makes a momma want to weep!

L: Mom.
Mie: Yes L.
L: Mom.
Mie: Yes L.
I throw this in for posterity - to give you that "real life" feel!

L: Mom I want to throw a party.
Mie: Ok Log. 
L: But not a birthday party. 
Mie: Ok, why do you want...
L: Interrupting - he's learned the art of conversation in our home well.  I want to throw a party to say sorry to you.  Remember a long, long time ago?
Mie: Yes, when Logie?
L: A long, long, time ago when I was mean and called you a brat and stuff?

I assure you, this was a long, long time ago.  Several months, maybe close to a year!

Mie: Yes, Logie.  I remember that.  You didn't talk with love that day.
L: Yes and I threw a big fit.  I never said sorry to you mommy.  (Yes, he did...I assure you) I want to throw a party for you to say I'm sorry to you for talking mean to you mommy.  I love you so much and I don't want to talk mean to you.

I honestly don't know what I said after that...probably a reminder that I forgave him, an acknowledgement of his kindness and remebering to say sorry and thoughtfulness about the party.  But I was so caught up in the sweetness of that conversation that I don't remember what happened next!

Oh.  I just love that boy.