Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wednesday really sucked

For those of you that know me, you know that I take the HOME in stay at home mom and homeschooling quite seriously. I do not like running around, errands, or being gone all day. Those things make me crabby, and I do not like being crabby, so I avoid them when I can. They could not be avoided on Wednesday.

Our foster children had their initial doctor's appointments at 9 am on Wednesday morning. They need these done within two weeks of entering our home. It was a looooong appointment. Isaac had an orthodontist appointment at 11:50. It was less than 6 minutes, but it still involved six minors in the car, three car seats, a double stroller, a dirty diaper changed on my knees while I did a squat in the bathroom of the office since there was no changing table, and a quick announcement that we need to turn the expander 6 more times and then Isaac is ready for braces.

Audrey and Isaac had a cross country meet down the hill, which involved dropping them off at the middle school so they could ride the bus down with the team, coming home, packing food, drink, and entertainment, then driving four kids in three car seats down to watch the meet. While we were there, our foster daughter hurt herself at the playground. Much screaming ensued. I couldn't tell if she was screaming because she was hurt or because her feelings got hurt or if she was overwhelmed or if she was kind of hurt but I wasn't comforting her like she wanted or, or, or. I am still learning what makes these little people tick, and I just wasn't exactly sure how to read this situation. Plus, her little brother is going through some major separation anxiety when I'm not holding him, so there was lots of screaming coming from our general direction. My stress level was approximately a billion and a half. My biggest kids ran and did better than last week and had tons of fun, so that was good, but, gosh, I was so distracted! Thank goodness my friend was there to help. Jim couldn't get off of work to come to the meet, so I can't imagine if I'd been there on my own.

We left the meet to go to confirmation, and our foster daughter stopped crying as soon as we got in the car. I breathed a sigh of relief that she was ok, and we were on our merry way. Then Audrey piped in from the backseat, "Mom, she's really not using that arm." I took back my sigh of relief. Dang snabbits, as Asher likes to say.

Jim picked our foster kids up at church so they could go home for dinner while I stayed at church for confirmation since I'm the confirmation coordinator. I told him to ice it and see if being home would help, but to let me know if she wasn't using it, at which point I'd take her to Children's.

When I checked in via text, she still wasn't using her arm, so we decided I needed to get home to take her in. Two friends came to the rescue and offered to take our four kids home after confirmation and kingdom kids ended. I really have generous, kind, amazing friends.

I got home and called the proper agencies because having a foster kid hurt is a whole new ballgame involving phone calls and paperwork. I was seriously freaking out. I couldn't believe this was happening on day 8 of foster care. I had thousands of worst case scenarios dashing through my overactive imagination. The man on call at our agency was very reassuring about it and talked me down, but I was still sick about it. I imagined bringing them to their second parent visit and having her in a cast and having the parents so angry at me and wondering how this could happen to their daughter in my care. Did I mention FREAKING OUT?!

We got to Children's, got checked in, and waited. Paw Patrol and "huggies," what she calls hugs when she's sad, kept her calm, but she screamed her bloody head off anytime anyone manipulated her left arm. I expected the worst, but just kept praying.

After the x-ray of her forearm showed no break, they brought her back for an elbow x-ray. As I held her to put on our aprons, she started using her arm. When we sat down for the x-ray, she banged the x-ray table with her left pointer finger and shouted, "I don't like this thing." They did the x-ray for good measure, but they felt pretty certain nothing was broken. Apparently while they manipulated her arm for the first set of x-rays, they popped her Nursemaid's elbow back into place. Nursemaid's elbow is when a tendon pops into the wrong spot and just needs to be adjusted slightly to get back into its spot. (Or at least that's how I understand it. Google it if you don't want to take my word for it.) Nothing broken, no scars, no follow up treatment. I was told to "go home, put her to bed, and have a beer."

I started crying when he told me that. I was so relieved and she just kept saying, "My arm all better." I did get her home and put her to bed, but I did not have a beer. Instead I went directly to bed, too.

You guys, yesterday was so hard. It was non-stop and exhausting and I just wanted to go to bed early. In fact, I told Jim on Tuesday night that my Wednesday night goal was to go to bed before Isaac. Ha! Instead I didn't get home from urgent care until about 10:15. But, it really was the best possible outcome. She got hurt. I did the right thing by taking her in. It reinforced the fact that we will take care of her and help her feel better when she is hurt. I called the proper people to inform them of the incident and no one thought I was negligent or lazy. They just thought that accidents happen and it was crappy timing. She is fine. We are fine. And so, so thankful that it wasn't worse.

So, Wednesday really sucked. Thursday was much improved, partly due to the fact that I didn't have to get into the car even once, and no diapers were changed while doing a squat. Look at me winning at life over here. :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tears

He never cried when a stranger dropped him off at my house and left.

He never cried when he left his parents after his first visitation.

But I've known him for seven days, and he often cries when I leave the room. He calls mama for me. He reaches his arms out and smiles when he sees me.

For the tears he didn't cry when he should have and the tears he cries now, I cannot stop crying.

We are helping to raise two beautiful children. They are exceptional. The life they have endured is too much. The pain they have endured is too much. We will love them for however long they need us. Then we'll keep on loving them after they've left because they're part of our story, part of the fabric that makes up the quilt of our life as a family. We will feed them and change diapers, kiss scrapes and read night-night stories, sing their favorite songs that make them giggle and help them learn table manners, teach baby signs and take walks. We'll do it day in and day out because that is what family does and I want them to know what it feels like to rely on someone and to have that person be who you need them to be.

The changes we have seen in these two children in seven days are absolutely mind-blowing. I'll say it again. These are exceptional and beautiful children. We are finding our way. It is so hard and exhausting and non-stop redirection and reminders and meals and diapers and all of it. We knew it would change everything, but we could never, ever have been adequately prepared. I equate it to first time motherhood. You read the books and take the classes, but you can't really know what motherhood is or means until the baby is in your arms. Same for foster care. We were as ready as we could be until two small, fragile, strong, hurting, amazing children showed up at our house.  We have a clearer picture of what foster care means every day. It is every emotion at once many times every day. And it is so worth it.

I've never prayed more in my entire life. I've never felt such reliance on God in my entire life. I've never felt so loved and lifted up in my life either. People are feeding us and bringing us groceries unannounced and a neighbor offered to help with laundry, so I dropped off dirty laundry for a 4, 3, and 1 year old tonight because, apparently, there is no shame in my game.

I will never run out of tears about what these kids have endured. But I'll also never forget what I whisper to them every night when I put them to bed. I sing them Jesus Loves Me. I sing a lullaby. I pray. Then I whisper, "Your story doesn't end here. This is just the beginning for you. You have such a big, beautiful life ahead of you. You are special. You are beloved. God made you just perfectly you."

And then I cry more tears. Tears about the pain they've endured, but also tears of gratitude, love, and hope that we can be a part of their story.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tuesday's seismic shift

I rub his back as he falls asleep and I whisper, "You are so special. God loves you so much." Over and over I whisper. After he has fallen asleep, I take two steps across the tiny room that we didn't really expect would ever hold two kids, and I rub his big sister's back and tell her how special she is and how much God loves her and how beautiful and smart she is. They don't like the dark, so we leave the hall light on, and they don't like the door shut, so she looks at books for a few minutes before falling asleep herself.

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On Monday, we had our first day of Classical Conversations, and I went ziplining with Audrey and her Girl Scout buddies, and ate dinner, and Jim and I tucked the gang of four in. I went to bed, and around 10:20 I heard Asher whimpering and fussing in his bed. He doesn't do that. I put him to bed, and he sleeps until the next day. That night, he whimpered. I crawled into his bed, snuggled him, and got him back to sleep, then quietly crept back to my bed. Five minutes later, he started up again. I just grabbed my pillow and went in. We snuggled all night. He'd search out my hand periodically or roll into the crook of my neck to snuggle if he got too cool. Looking back, I am so incredibly thankful for those sweet moments with my baby. Maybe he somehow felt the first ripples of the seismic shift that was about to hit our family and wanted one last night with his mama.

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Our Tuesday started normally enough. Then at 11:30 am we got a call from our foster care agency about siblings who were looking for emergency placement. After many calls back and forth, many tears, many prayers, K and A were brought to our home at 4 pm that same afternoon. They will be here for as long as they need to be here.

They are sweet and beautiful, hurting and beloved, just as deserving of parents who think the world of them as every other kid on the planet. They haven't gotten that so far, but they'll get it as long as they are in our home, and we are in constant prayer that their parents are able to provide that for them at some point, too.

I have so many stories. Stories of my amazing kids loving these kids and being loved back. Stories of being called mom and dad by a little girl the very first day we met her. Stories of a baby boy holding his arms up to me as he calls me mama. Stories of our friends feeding us and dropping off walkers and clothes and a carseat. Stories of teaching a 3 year old how to clean up her area after she eats. Two days in, and there are so many stories. (I would tell more stories, but there's also so much exhaustion and dishes and food prep and kid loving and book reading and homeschool teaching that free time to blog is nonexistent. Also, going to the bathroom and eating have mostly slipped my mind for two days, but we're on our way to finding our new normal.)

I take such comfort in knowing that God's not finished with me yet, but that pales in comparison to the comfort it brings to know that God isn't done with K and A's stories either. We will forever be part of their story and they will forever be part of ours. We don't know how it will end. We don't know how long we'll play major roles in each other's stories, how long it will be impossible to extricate our story from theirs. But I look into their eyes, and I rub their backs, and I cook their food, and hug them when they trip on the wagon, and I comfort them after parent visitation, and I see love and hope and redemption and a future.

Please, Lord, let it be so.

And nothing says welcome to the family like get into the car, we're going to go stand in the sweltering heat for a middle school cross country meet. :)

Monday, September 11, 2017

today

If I had an ounce of energy, I would write more, but I'll just pop on to say that this weekend I went on a cleaning rampage that I can only attribute to foster care nesting. Then we found a mouse in the basement and our master bath sink started leaking and Jim was out of town because terrible house things only happen when Jim is out of town.

Today, Audrey, Elliot, Asher, and I started Foundations and Essentials at CC, while Isaac and his classmates had week 3 of Challenge B. I am tutoring for the first time, which was a blast and made the day fly by! It is Asher's first year in Classical Conversations, and he loved it. He did his presentation, said his tutor was so nice, and mentioned that he forgot to ask for help making his owl. What a big boy!

We already did first day of school pics, but I had to snap a picture of this sweet boy on his first day of Classical Conversations. CUTIE!!

After CC, I rushed the boys home, then Audrey and I went ziplining with her girl scout troop. Her group has four new girls this year, so it was a bridging ceremony/welcoming ceremony, and it was a blast. I was so proud of the girls who were fearful, but overcame it to thoroughly enjoy themselves! We can now say that we've done the longest AND fastest ziplines in CO. I was ziplining, so I couldn't take pictures, but I hope to post some once I get them from a friend.
all geared up to take the shuttle to our zipline location

Jim's home and has been on mouse eradication/sink duty. Thank goodness! Now I'll prep a few things for tomorrow and hit the hay because that was one full, fantastic, and exhausting day!



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Daring to Hope-A Book Review

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to receive a free copy of the book Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors. I recently read her first book, Kisses from Katie. I believe that I was in the minority in that, while I found the book inspiring and important, I had major issues with the overall tone of it, specifically what I perceived to be an almost white messiah tone. I don't think that was the author's intent, but instead I tend to attribute it to the major life change that Katie had recently experienced, her young age, and her incredibly unique way of life that found her living across the world from all she knew. Therefore, I was eager to read the follow up book, written after Katie had been in Africa for 10 years and had many more experiences under her belt.

Age and perspective made all the difference for me. In her first book, I felt that Katie Davis sugarcoated some of the tragic and heartbreaking circumstances she, her family, and her friends endured, citing simple and juvenile bible verses and stories that most Christians hear in the first few years of Sunday School.

In Daring to Hope, Katie digs deeper. Deeper into her faith, her God, her bible, her community. It was refreshing and encouraging to see her trials and better understand how she got through them. It is almost unfathomable to think of all that Katie has seen and experienced in her years in Uganda, but she helps us enter into her incredible world. She also shows us that we don't have to travel around the world, start a foundation, adopt 13 children, and welcome friends and strangers alike into our homes during their most challenging and painful moments in order to make a difference and follow God's call in our lives. She assures us that God will use us where we are, will lead us to where we are to be, and will provide all we need wherever we are meant to be.

I finished this book feeling inspired and encouraged in my walk with Christ and my life for Christ. I am so thankful that I received an advance copy. If you're interested in reading it, there are some incentives to pre-ordering the book, which you can check out here. You can also get on your library's website and put it on hold.

Have you read any good books lately? I've got about 6 going right now, which is even more than usual for me. Do you have an amazing read that I should add to my list?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We had to say no. aka it's complicated

I have a blog post in me about what brought us to foster care, but it's long and complicated, so I'm just going to start where I am today.

We are licensed for foster care. That happened. We are open to children ages birth-3, boy or girl, and a sibling set if they are both under 4. We got the news that we were officially licensed last Wednesday. I immediately had a dream that we welcomed a 4 month old baby girl named Orange Carrot Britta into our home. Needless to say, we called her Britta. This dream also happened on the day that Elliot and I harvested carrots in our garden, so there is at least a smidgen of method to my madness.

Tuesday night, Isaac and Elliot had two drafts for Fantasy Football. One of them required a conference call, so our home phone was in use. Apparently when someone calls when the home phone is in use, the message doesn't go to our regular voicemail. The organization that we are working with called us at 6:50 pm on Tuesday. They had a 2 1/2 year old boy for an emergency placement. Due to our voicemail snafu, Jim randomly discovered that message at about 11 pm on Wednesday. When he told me, I felt sick to my stomach. How did we miss it? They were supposed to call my cell phone first, but somehow their paperwork had our home phone as the contact information. I called bright and early Thursday morning, but, as expected, the boy had already been placed. I had them change the number to call and hoped and prayed this was God's way of showing us that this placement wasn't right for either the little boy or our family.

Thursday morning, we also had our orientation for our homeschool group. The kids and I were at the director's house and I was relaying this to some of my friends who have been so supportive of this whole process. I went out to a friend's car to get the ergo baby that she is loaning me when my phone rang again. It was an unfamiliar number in our area code, so I thought maybe, just maybe, it could be about foster care. If not, I could hang up when I heard the pause. No harm there. Sure enough, it was about fostering.

"Hi, DeNae. I am calling about foster care placement for a sibling set. I know it's stretching the limit, but I thought I'd ask. The younger child is 7 months, and the older sibling is 5 years. They are both boys."

Honestly, when she said a sibling set, my heart said it'll be a lot, but you can do it. When she said 7 months, I smiled because BABYYYY!!! But then she said 5 years old. We have some very specific reasons that we will only foster up to age 4. The main reason is that we homeschool, and school aged foster children have to be put in public school. It feels very exclusionary to welcome a child into our home to love and be loved by, to care for and share life with, and then to send them off to school while our biological kids stay home. There is also the extra running around that would require of me. If that sounds selfish, so be it. I am homeschooling four kids with piano lessons and girl scouts and theater and cross country and confirmation and sunday school, plus they want to be fed! (joking!) I do not want to extend myself in a way that I am not comfortable with. Finally, if we do end up adopting, we want to keep the same birth order in our family, so we want the children to be younger than Asher. There are more reasons, but those are the biggies. We may change our minds at some point, but that is where we are now.

So, she said 5 years old, and my heart sank. My eyes welled up with tears as I realized that I had to say no. We have been working towards licensure since February. Our hearts and home are ready. But I said no. I explained why, and she said she understood and would put in our file that we were firm on the age restrictions. She was very understanding, and I know it was the right answer, but I still felt incredibly emotional. And then I got emotional about feeling emotional because if I got this emotional about saying no, what the heck is going to happen when we say yes? It's complicated, I tell you. Right from the start, even without our first placement, it's all complicated.

As I cried and shook a little and told myself that no was the right answer, I thought back to our foster care classes. In our classes, the social workers were adamant that if we got a call for placement that didn't seem right due to age, gender, circumstances, or just a gut feeling, we should say no. They'd rather have someone say no so they can find the right fit for the child than have a person say yes only to have to take the child from the home later. That is just one more person the child has bonded with that they have to say goodbye to.

No was the right answer. Still we wait. Isaac wants a 3 year old buddy for Asher. Audrey's hoping for a 2 day old girl. (She is having a good little giggle about the fact that all 3 kids they've called about have been boys. She can't even get a girl foster sister!) Elliot would love to love on a baby. Asher wants someone who can sit on his lap when he sleds in our backyard. In the course of foster care, they may all get their wishes. Jim and I don't have a specific wish. We trust that God will bring the right little person to our family, and that God will then equip us to love and care for that little person for as long as necessary. We expect hiccups and mistakes, stress and worry. We expect to have a front row seat to love and first steps, family reunification and growth. We expect broken hearts and redemption.

We know as much as we can know until we just get into it. In some ways, it's like childbirth and first time parenting. We've taken the classes and read the books. We're as prepared as we can be. Now we just wait to see the little human God has in store for us to find out the rest of the story, the real story.

No matter how the stories of our foster care experiences end, we are honored to be a part of it, complications and all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Turquoise Lake

Our church has a wonderful tradition of reserving a group camping spot and camping together over Labor Day. It is just the best! Last year was our first year to attend, and we have been looking forward to going again all year. It is a weekend to relax, enjoy each other's company, watch the kids have an absolute blast together, and act utterly ridiculous/solve the world's troubles with the grown ups. Of course, this is after a crazy week of camp prepping for families. The camping is relaxing. . .prepping to camp is not.

Last weekend between 30-40 members of our church drove to Turquoise Lake near Leadville for three days of campfires, s'mores, roasted starbursts, volleyball, swimming, hammock swinging, potlucks complete with lots of Dutch oven deliciousness, heated games of Werewolf, and a fair share of Moscow Mules and tropical mimosas that go down like kool-aid. A friend and I even ran twice while camping, which makes us feel like super studs. There was the slack line injury that busted open Isaac's lip and hand and landed Audrey on her head, but there has to be at least one story and sometimes a scar with every adventure! Our six humans and two canines came home yesterday afternoon happy, tired, and feeling so fortunate that we are part of such a kind, welcoming, hilarious, and generous church family.

It was a tremendous way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer. The scenery wasn't too shabby either!

Leadville, CO. Lunch at the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon (it was chilly!)

Ta-da! Leadville!

The boys helped Jim set up their tent

Audrey and I set up the girls + Asher tent

a rock just his size for climbing

peaceful, tranquil Turquoise Lake


running the shore

Heart rocks

exploring

as always, kids + rocks + water=hours of happiness

tree climbing

beach day with friends

can't be in the sand without burying a friend

the walk down to the beach

happy kids 



hammock fun

the hammock ate him

campfire silliness

climate change and the death tax were the hot topics of the weekend

more hammock fun

sand fun

Now we're home and Isaac is at week 2 of Challenge B, I am slowly, slooooooowwwwwwlllllllyyyyyy making a dent in the behemoth known as Mount Laundry, the kids are working on school and helping me make Jim's birthday cake to celebrate his 42nd birthday two days late. He did get a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from our whole church group on Sunday night, which was his actual birthday. I hope he'll forgive me for not remembering that it was his birthday until Sunday night, but days mean nothing while camping, there were no calendars around, and my cell phone was in the tent 99% of the time. Oopsie. We're having a grand celebration tonight to celebrate our man/dad/stud of the family.