Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Our First GoodBye

     We are very sad to say that our first placement has come to an end. Though it's been a couple weeks, it's still very had to talk about, partially because it wasn't due to reunification with the bio-family (which was the goal), but also because we do not yet know why the kids were removed from our home so suddenly (25 hours notice) and we miss them very much.

     Telling the kids they were leaving was so hard on us because we had to gently explain why we were rushing to pack up and move the last 7+ months of their lives and see the tears flow as they expressed their desire to stay. It was heartbreaking to make them go when we too wanted them to stay. They came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and those clothes didn't even fit, so we literally started from scratch and had to get as much of it together and ready to go as quickly as possible. Hurried packing is not my forte, to say the least. The kids forgot their pillows and special travel/car blankets. I forgot to pack their life books and Father's Day gifts (for Bio-Dad), and did not have time to complete the last load of laundry to send the last of their clothes with them. There are remnants of their presence all over the house and I just cannot bring myself to clean it up and pack it away yet.

     So, the great debate begins. What do we do with two extra bedrooms? Do we turn the kids' room/nursery into our bundle of joy's bedroom, and have it sit empty for the next four months until baby is born, or longer? Do we take on another foster placement as soon as possible or do we take a break for a while? Do we take the second kids' room and turn it back into an office/guest room? Do we put a bassinet on our baby registry and plan for baby to be in our room or do we stick with the crib we have and leave it in the nursery? Do we repaint the walls? Do we put away the toddler beds? Do we store everything, so I can walk down the hallway without ending up on my knees crying and praying? I just don't know. We don't know.

     For now, we are just doing the best we can to make it day by day. The hardest part is not knowing if the kids are ok, or why they were moved in the first place. There's been no contact from the social/case workers since the day the kids left. I just can't bring myself to get together the last of the kids belongings and paperwork. I guess it's because I know, as soon as I hand it over, that's the end of this chapter for us. I'm just not ready to close the book on these kids yet, not after all they've been through and all the work it took to get them this far. Hopefully, soon we'll have either answers or peace about it all, but for now we wait on the Lord for our next steps. In the mean time, there is plenty to consider and work on to pass the time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


     The month of May means a lot of things for a lot of people. Birthdays, anniversaries, deaths- we mark our time here on earth with these milestones and assign them significance. The month of May is particularly one of my favorite months of the year, as it represents the coming of summer, many personal milestones, and support for multiple causes as well.

     In the month of May, whether you're celebrating National Pet Month, Mental Health Month, National Asthma and Allergy Awareness, Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness, ALS Awareness, Celiac Awareness, Lupus Awareness, Lyme Disease Awareness, Brain Cancer Awareness, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness, Motorcycle Safety Awareness, National Bike Month, National Guide Dog Month, National Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Scandinavian American Heritage, Haitian Heritage, Jewish American Heritage, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, or another cause, the important thing is that we have a cause, that we care enough to have something to passionately support. Though our family celebrates a few of the aforementioned, this month is particularly special for us because it also happens to be Foster Care Awareness Month!

     Currently, foster care is at the forefront of our lives, as we are living and learning all we can about it. There are days where I wish we could celebrate Adoption Month (in November), but most days when I realize that we are perfectly where we are needed right now. There are days where I wonder why I even try when I could make more progress talking to a brick wall than a five year old, and other days where a simple statement from a traumatized three year old can completely restore my faith in humanity. There are days were I'm faced with the brutal truth that the foster care system is broken and I fear not only for my kids but also every other child in care. Other times, one ruling from a sensible judge gives me the hope that maybe my kids won't fall through the cracks of the courts after all.

     The biggest issue by far we've found, in our support groups and socializing with other foster families, is that despite changing times, people still judge families based on appearances and that many people still struggle with the idea that kids can love more than one set of parents/family. We don't have any experience with the former. Our kids are burst into flames in the sun white-skinned, with blonde hair and blue eyes, so based on appearances, they "fit" very well into our family. However, we struggle significantly with the latter. Little Man got in the car after the visit this week and about 3 minutes into the ride he burst into tears crying, "Mommy thinks we're her kids and she said I can't be your kid. We're your kids too, right?" From the back seat, his sister interjected, "She's just the lady we are staying with, then we are going home to our real mommy." Little Man was absolutely distraught and there was no consoling him until we were home and he was in my arms, clutching me in a headlock and not letting go until Dear Husband got home.

     The awareness that we are trying to give our kids, is that family is not biological. Not even close. Blood and DNA are biological, but love is what makes a family. It's a choice we make every day. Foster care is unique in that it is designed to give children a family environment, whether they came from one previously or not. Some people struggle with the simple idea of children loving and accepting step parents into their families, and unfortunately the general consensus is that foster families are like having an entire step family, a family that takes care of you, but will never really be yours or love you like a biological family. Though their bio-family struggles with this, and the older girls felt this pressure to feel the same way, Little Man was unaffected by it for almost 4 full months until his sisters forced the issue. For us, these kids are in our care, and we parent them daily, they are our kids and we love them as if they are our own. There's always something happening with the bio-family saga that reminds me the plan is reunification and these kids are heading home. We expect it, but I know I will never be prepared for the day when we get that inevitable phone call or email to that tells us to pack the kids up.

     That's the thing- we don't open our hearts, family, and home lightheartedly. When we volunteered to follow this calling, we committed ourselves to unconditionally loving every child that comes through our doors and to make them a part of our family. We get to choose our family, and when someone walks out our door, it does not remove them from our family. Many people have told me the writing is on the wall for the girls because they were in their home longer than they'll be with me, so our impact will be minimal at best. Little Man, however, is at a crossroads where he is still small enough to be molded, learn, and have the things we teach him now stick with him over time. Either way, no matter what happens, I am so blessed to have kids who will walk into a room of strangers, introduce themselves, and hug and kiss every single person. Despite all the ups and downs, we really did get the best first placement ever! I hope that the love the kids have found here continues to shine through them and positively affect all their future relationships.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Processing the Guilt of Displacing a Foster Child

"Because as much as you love your kids, 
they are God's children, 
and the battle for their hearts, their minds, 
and their lives is HIS."  -Kathi Lipp

      It's been several weeks since I last posted. After first getting our placement, I was so busy helping the kids adjust and get into a routine that I had no desire to take time away from them to post. Later, we discovered that there really is a "Honeymoon Phase" with foster kids... which happens to be something they neglected to teach us about in our MAPP training. They warned us about all the worst case scenarios, but they didn't tell us we needed to be prepared for the sudden swing from manageable behaviors to the completely out of control, off the rails child. This was when I had a very strong desire to post, but literally did not have the time because the kids suddenly required 24/7 line of sight supervision, and Dear Husband and I were swapping shifts back and forth so we could each squeeze in a few hours of sleep, whenever possible.

     We had a sibling group of three that we were absolutely committed to keeping together, as we were told we were the only foster home in our county currently able to do so. We had a lot of edges to smooth out on our kids, but that's to be expected when they come from the environment they did. They adjusted relatively easily, with lots of unconditional love and patience, but we were blissfully unaware of the true damage underneath all the layers of their little hearts and personalities. The oldest of the siblings turned out to be a special case, requiring more attention than we could give her with three other kids in the house. I truly wish our experience could have gone differently.

     We did end up having to displace the oldest, meaning we asked that she be removed from our home and placed with another family where she could be an only child and receive the extra attention she needs. However, we did manage to part ways on good terms, despite the circumstances. It was hard to know what to expect from her, and as a result, I ended up with quite a few bruises and battle scars, physically and emotionally. We tried everything to make it work, but we couldn't correct the purposefully destructive behaviors and maintain 24/7 line of sight supervision (long-term) on three kids in two to three separate rooms at all times (plus Red, a teenager in the thick of those classic teen years). We could feel our hearts pulling towards displacement, not wanting it, but knowing it was best for our family. Our heads fought for another few weeks, until we reached our tipping point, where our heads and hearts were suddenly in alignment. I put in the request to meet with the children's case worker in person to give her the news. We kept her well informed on the issues we were facing throughout, so she only had one question for me. "Do you need me to move her today?" I almost took her up on the offer, but I knew that we needed some closure and I tend to be a stickler for the rules, so I told her no, we were just giving our two weeks notice the state requires. It took well over a month for a home to be found.

     A few days before the move, we found out I was pregnant and had an infection in my already "resting" kidneys (not failing, just taking a little break). I was sick, trying to wrap my head around the reality of being pregnant, preparing for our foster daughters departure, and someone told our foster daughter about her pending displacement, something she wasn't supposed to know about until we were in the therapists office at the end of the week, something this person knew full well. I felt so much guilt for needing to move her before, and watching her struggle through the fall out was absolutely gut wrenching. Luckily, the next day, she was able to calm down and we were able to let her help pack her things, which gave her some much needed closure. As frustrated as I was in the moment, the Lord knew she needed the extra time to adjust to the move, instead of being whisked from our home to another without notice as the agency had originally intended.

     Not even 12 hours after the move, several things happened that dissolved my internal struggle and guilt about the situation almost immediately. Even though I can't really expand on what those differences are, I can say that our home is a completely different place now. Turns out we were all feeling the stress, but didn't notice how toxic an environment our house had become until it suddenly wasn't anymore.

     It's hard to not kick myself for holding on and trying to make it work for so long. I've learned that, if you let it, the guilt will consume you. That's not something I'm willing to let happen to me. I make it a conscious effort to move forward each day, literally taking it one day at a time. There's no other way to do it. When you know the plan is reunification, and we're never guaranteed to have these kids or a chance to do better tomorrow, we have to do the best we can today. Guilt comes with the territory because we always want to be able to do more, but we are often bound by rules, regulations, court orders, social workers' busy schedules, bio family's actions/attitudes/religious preferences, etc. We have to be able to accept that our best is enough, and that the Lord will handle the rest.

     When we notified the agency I am expecting, they asked how soon we want the other kids moved, and were taken back when I informed them we're keeping the kids. We plan to continue fostering and there's no need to move the kids, unless they or the bio family have an issue with us continuing to foster these particular children. So far, no complaints from either the agency or bios, so we are moving along, staying busy, and doing what we can to prepare for all the chaos that will be headed our way over the next few months. We lead a very messy, but uniquely beautiful life. All of the rough patches make the good that much sweeter, and for that I am truly beyond blessed and grateful.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Here We Grow Again!"

     As you may be aware, things in our house have been a beautiful kind of chaos, with three little foster babes running around the house. Right as we thought we'd start stressing about permanency planning for our three littles, God decided to bless us beyond our wildest imagination! We're adding another little bundle of joy to our growing family, and this one is our very own! Our little surprise is 8 weeks and the size of a raspberry, and will be joining us at the end of October or early November of this year. What a blessing!

A little light and humorous reading for that sweet hubby of mine

     We are so beyond excited to have this absolute miracle. It is hard to wrap my head around the reality, after having previously adjusted to the fact that we would never have biological children.... or so we thought. However, we fully trust in an all-knowing God, who also happens to have a perfect plan for our lives. His timing is impeccable, and for that we praise Him.

     We found out Monday by surprise after getting some blood test results back about an infection I'm currently fighting, and went back and forth about when to announce. I was considering waiting until around weeks 16-18, but dear husband couldn't wait and announced it on his Facebook the other day, so it's time we catch everyone up on the good news. We are still debating on whether to find out the gender or wait until the birth though, so we'll see how that goes as my pregnancy progresses. Please pray for dear husband as he pulls back out all the nursery furniture we took down and put away in the attic just last month. Haha! Let 7 months of nesting begin!

"He gives children to the woman who has none 
and makes her a happy mother."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First Placement Update - November 2014 to the Present

** A quick catch up on all the precious happenings in our home over the last few months. **

     A Friday in early November, I woke up thinking it was a good day to lay in bed all morning and relax doing small projects, to check as many things off my to do list as possible. But then the phone rang, it was our licensing worker wondering how many kids we'd be willing to take. Double checking, just in case, she said. There was a slight possibility some placements would be made that day. The words lice and skin lesions were casually mentioned, and, even though I was told not to expect anything, I flew into a flurry as soon as I hung up the phone. I started by calling DH and Mom, to tell them the possibility existed for the day's events to change at a moment's notice. Then, I ran through the kids' room and the house gathering all the super plush comforters, stuffed animals, extra clothes, soft-surfaced toys and tossing it all into the guest room, garage, and attic. I grabbed some clothes out of the totes in the attic, in sizes I thought might come into our home. I washed, folded, and stacked them neatly in outfits in the bassinet in the master bedroom.

     I ran around frantically up until the moment I left the house to meet another foster mom for lunch. Lunch was fabulous. We discussed the joys, affirmations, frustrations, and doubts we'd been facing in our foster journeys since we finished our MAPP training class back in April. Even though DH and I had only been officially licensed a week, I was so exhausted from waiting through the 7 months of delays that I was beginning to think we wouldn't have a placement until well into 2015. We long ago put the future of our family in the Lord's hands, and just asked Him to make it abundantly clear what paths we were to take along the way. As we sat at lunch, I prayed that the Lord would calm my impatient heart, and bless and equip my fellow foster mom and bless her family with all they would need for their next adventure. As we were in the parking lot, saying our goodbyes, my phone rang. It was a placement worker asking if DH & I were willing to take a sibling group of 3 (a boy, 3, and two girls, 5 & 6). The placement supervisor asked when I could come pick them up, ideally in the next two hours. I was literally in the parking lot across the street from the DSS building, and told her I'd be there in about 2 minutes. She began expediting the paperwork, while I had my little happy dance moment and hopped in the car. Less than 15 minutes later, I was on my way home with three kids.

     We learned quickly that we have to be jaded about how we listen and react to everything. The kids had never had a bed before, and definitely never had their own. They lie and fake illnesses to get attention, and tell a bit too much of the truth when they tell everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) why they are staying with us. They attacked snacks and dinner like cavemen, gagging and choking themselves on the sheer volume of food they were double-fisting into their mouths, and would then attack each other trying to get more. We had to go to the store immediately to get supplies, as they came only with the clothes on their backs (and several sizes too small at that). Clothes, Pull-ups (not one was potty trained), hair brushes/combs, lice treatment, rash creams, extra Neosporin, cough medicine, allergy medicine, etc. I spent 6 hours (9pm-3am) pulling and combing lice out of one of the girl's matted hair, as she cried and screamed endlessly out of exhaustion. I would have given almost anything at that moment to be able to shave her head and put her to bed. Every time I started to think I could break for the night, wash sheets and start back over in the morning, she would begin scratching her head so hard she would tear open, bleeding scratches into her scalp. So, we sat there, fighting sleep with tears running down our faces until we couldn't get anymore of the lice out. We did a second washing and went to bed, praying for the best.

     I barely got an hour or two of sleep, but the kids slept for a good 16 hours before waking up for dinner, then, cried themselves to sleep until they woke for lunch the next day. By Monday, we were uncovering signs of abuse, separation anxieties, neuroses, hoarding tendencies, medical needs, and some major attitude/bossing/entitlement issues.
     FAST FORWARD several weeks, a lot of unconditional love, patience, regular weekly schedules/daily routines, and a whole lot of prayer later, and we have wonderful kids that are adjusting well, despite all obstacles. We are convinced we got an amazing sibling group, and are so thankful the Lord has blessed us with such a wonderful first placement. We still have 2-7 doctor's appointments a week, weekly parental visitations, and need to do extensive allergy testing, developmental evaluations, and begin taking the kids to therapy, but we have already come so far that our huge to do list is a sigh of relief compared to what it looked like two months ago.

     We were so blessed to take the kids out of state with us for Christmas at my mom's house. They truly thrived with all the individual attention, and came out of their shells as they bonded with our family. It was only the second time, the first being Thanksgiving with an extended family crowd, that they had run into a house and made themselves at home instantly. Normally, they would cling to our legs and sit on our laps refusing to interact with others, until we ask them to go participate and promise we won't leave the room, but, at "Nana's" house, there were enough people that the kids had their choice of who they wanted attention from. We no longer have nightly tears for their bio-family, though we do have tears on visitation days. We do, however, have daily tears for our family that we "left behind" out of state.

     Our kindergartner brought home a picture last week of our family, and I cried my eyes out. It was so rewarding to hear her say the words "I love you," when they were directed at me, after months of her telling me daily, if not every 20 minutes or hourly, that she hated me and I'm not her mom. My heart broke for the kids, as they had the first parental no-show for visitation this week. It's so hard to see the kids go from having parents that are always there on time or early, to having one of their parents drop the ball so suddenly. The kids sat perfectly still for 2 1/2 hours waiting for their parent to show. I was able to calm them down, but they are still disappointed. I'm so thankful that they trust us enough now to know that when I told them I'll see what I can do to set up another visit, I'll follow through.

     Our big prayer requests currently are that: the Lord will grant us the blessing of being able to get a family vehicle large enough to fit our whole family, we'll be able to witness to both the kids and the bio-family, that we can get the medical diagnoses the kids need to get better physically and caught up developmentally/educationally, and that their parents consistently work their plans and show up for visitations as scheduled.

Happy Birthday!

Sick day- Dinosaur Train and puppy snuggles make everything better.

We made Christmas cookies, and I wish I had taken more photos.
We had some absolutely priceless shapes and decorating.

* It is so hard to get unidentifiable pictures these days. They love having their pictures taken, and I guess I'm not sneaky enough. Haha!