Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Can My Heart Handle This?

About a month after the twins went back home, we decided to do a little respite care again. After all, the twins had been with us for almost a year and even tho things were settling into a new normal, my heart still hurt. I needed to know if I could handle this again. 

A family requested respite for their foster son. A little thing called Hurricane Harvey had turned their lives upside down and they needed a break. In comes 2 year old G-man with loads of energy to spare. 

Ready or not, here he comes!

The first week that G-man was with us, we took down and stored away one of the baby beds. We boxed up all the toys and other items that were too baby-ish for him. The last little remnants of the twins were being neatly packed away. G-man kept us busy and the week ticked by.

At the end of that week, we were asked if we would make his stay with us permanent and become his new foster parents. His other foster family was still dealing with the aftermath of Harvey and would be for sometime to come and this mischevous little guy was a lot to handle right now. 

We said yes, and just like that, we had jumped back into the rollercoaster of foster care.

His former foster family sent over tons of things with him when he was moved to our home. All of his clothes now hung in the closet or were neatly packed into his cubbies. All of his toys were now scattered about the living room and his bedroom floor. A new forward facing carseat was now taking up a spot in our van 
.........and life ticked on.

It had been a while since we had gone anywhere or done anything outside of our normal routine, so we made plans to go camping at a Jellystone park. There was lots to do for both big and little kids so it was a good mix for everyone.

About 2 weeks after G-man was officially placed with us, we were off for our trip. We were looking forward to getting away and really taking our minds off of everything that had happened over the past few months, relaxing, and having a little fun.

Then, about 1 hour into our drive, the unthinkable happened....

Friday, August 25, 2017

The End of 'The First'

To be sure, foster care is a CRAZY roller coaster of emotions. 

It feels like yesterday that the boys were placed with us, and just like that, 10 months later, they are gone. Did we give good enough goodbyes? Did we say 'I love you' one last time? Did we remember to send everything? Do they know how much they are loved? Do they wonder where we are? Do they wonder what is happening? Are they scared? There's a storm brewing...do they need comforting from all the noise? Do they miss us? Do they need extra hugs and cuddles today? What is going through their little minds? 

I really can't adequately describe how I am feeling. I cry...a lot...at any given moment in time. My big kids don't even think my bursts of crazy crying are even weird anymore. It's normal to them now. My heart hurts. I look around my house and still see them everywhere. 

All the alphabet refrigerator magnets have been put back on the fridge when just the day before 2 mischievous little boys had knocked them all off because it was more fun to slide them all over the kitchen floor instead. The toys that we kept behind that were scattered all over the house are now neatly stacked in their baskets. That favorite monkey toy they adored (that we bought an extra of so they could take one home) now sits silent on a box in the corner of the room. Excersaucers they no longer wanted to be in since they learned to walk sit motionless stored away in their room. Their room...those empty baby beds filled with memories of sleepy happy baby faces that greeted us every morning. High chair trays still sitting on the kitchen table needing to be cleaned from the shenanigans that went on the day before at dinner time. And my heart...my empty yet full hurting heart...

So, here I sit...in a silent house, with a near empty box of tissues, in front of a tear drenched keyboard, trying desperately to believe that 'it is well with my soul'. 

A Knife Through the Heart

Our very first foster loves went back home after having been with us from the age of 2 months to 13 months. 

We have tried hard to maintain a good relationship between the bio parents. We've been told we could come to special things in the future like birthday parties, sending Christmas gifts, etc (but I'm uncertain if that will actually ever happen). At the last visit with mom, she said, "dad and I don't want the boys to ever know they were in foster care...so..." 

I felt like I was stabbed in the heart with a knife. The last 10 months flashed thru my mind...round the clock feedings, numerous doctor visits, sleepless nights rocking babies to sleep, first words, first smiles, first steps, wiping tears, all those hugs and cuddles...erased in an instant. I'm sure mom didn't mean it this way, but her words cut deep. I was speechless and for those of you who know me, you KNOW I'm never at a lack for words. The man who oversees the visits could tell I was about to bust out crying and jumped in and said, "just say she is a family friend".

 ...A family friend...it's a hard transition to make going from foster mom to 'family friend'. It's a hard thing giving your babies on loan back. So, this morning, I prayed for all of the foster families. 

Know that you are loved and treasured and that what you are doing matters and makes a difference for the better in the lives of these precious children even if we are the only ones that remember.

The Beginning of 'The First'...

When the twins were placed with us late one Friday evening, we had no idea what we were REALLY in store for.  I mean, we had an idea. After all, we had raised two children (now teens) already and they were just 16 months apart, so that was similar to having twins, right? 

These sweet boys were our first placements. They arrived at 2.5 months old and were just tiny little things, but boy did they have big voices! These boys screamed so loud they could easily drown out a whole herd of cats fighting over the last piece of tuna. And the spit up! No, not spit up. I've seen spit up and THIS was not spit up. This was everything they had consumed throughout the entire day, maybe even throughout the entire week.

Imagine trying to care for these littles all while trying to concentrate on hearing important details and information about them on top of signing what seemed like an endless amount of paperwork. It was a lot to take in all at once, but we survived, the workers left, the dust settled, and then there was just us.

Our wild-eyed teens oohed and aahed over the babies. They had no idea what our family was in store for either, but they were ready and willing to help.

We had about a 2 hour notice that the boys would be coming, so we had enough time to get their room and beds ready. They arrived with a can of formula, 2 bottles each, 2 beany babies, and 2 little onesies. My husband made a mad dash to the store that evening for a few more things as we had no idea what the twins would come with or what exactly we would need.

Needless to say, we got NO sleep over the next few weeks. It took both me and my husband getting up around the clock, nearly every hour at first, to feed the boys an ounce or 2 at a time as that was all they could tolerate. Looking back, I honestly don't know how we survived the first month. Well, I do know. It was God. He equipped us with what we needed when we needed it. 

We were in and out of the doctor's office the first few months trying to get them healthy and to get their little digestive systems on the right track. A few months into it and they were doing great. Life went on, routines were established, and before long, it felt at this was the way things had always been...

Friday, June 30, 2017

How Can You Help?

We've already discussed babysitting and respite care, but what are some other ways you can help with the foster care crisis WITHOUT becoming a foster parent?

MEALS - Do you know a foster family or is there an agency in your area you can contact to bring a meal? I cannot tell you what a blessing meals were to our family! I had NO idea just how crazy our lives would be after 2 month old twins were placed with us. When offers from friends to bring over meals started coming in, I was more than happy to accept...and let me tell you, this is one of the BIGGEST ways you can bless a foster family.

DONATE - Ask the foster family if they need anything. Perhaps you have something you aren't using around your home that the foster family can have or borrow. A friend gave us a baby bed she had in storage. Another gave us a baby rocker and others gave us clothing or diapers. My children are older so I had forgotten just how fast infants outgrow their clothing. We were so blessed when my husband's co-worker donated TONS of clothing. These twins are set for like the next year on shoes and clothing!

OFFER to HELP - Call up a foster family and see if they need anything from the store. As a foster parent, there are lots of rules and you pretty much have to take your foster children everywhere with you. Gone are the days of asking an older sibling to babysit for a few minutes while you run to the store and it's just not feasible to call up an approved babysitter every time you need to run a quick errand. Offer to take their older children to/from their activities. Offer to keep an eye on their kids during the church service, rock a fussy baby, or entertain a bouncy little one. We were blessed when friends offered to give our kids rides to school in the morning so I didn't have to get out so early with the twins. We even had families offer to chaperone our kids on school field trips because we were unable to attend. That was HUGE blessing and our kids didn't have to miss out on the fun with their friends.

CASA - Maybe you don't have time to open your home to foster children, but perhaps you have a little time to become a CASA volunteer. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. They speak on behalf of children in foster care and represent the child's best interests. Our CASA volunteer has been a lifesaver for our sweet twins.

ENCOURAGE - It's easy for foster families to grow tired and weary. A simple text, phone call, or letter can help brighten their day and let them know that you are thinking about them or praying for them. Swing by their house to say hello and hug their neck.

Knowing they have not been forgotten makes all the difference.

Friday, April 28, 2017

While We're Waiting...

The road to becoming a foster family isn't an overnight thing. It takes time...lots of time and patience. Sometimes there are snags and bumps in the road which make the process to finish even that much longer.

So, while we were waiting for everything to be finalized, we signed up to babysit and for respite care.

 Babysitting a foster child(ren) is a short term thing you can do for a foster family. It usually entails just a few hours with NO overnight care so a foster mom can run a few errands while kid-free or a dad can spend time with an older child without chasing a little one around. It very much like regular babysitting.

Respite care is more involved. It can be a few days to a few weeks and usually includes overnight stays. It's an opportunity to give a foster family a longer break or take care of their foster children if they are not able to bring them along. We had the pleasure of helping a foster family out with their precious little one for 3 weeks while they visited their grown children in China. After T-baby went home, we had the pleasure of doing respite care for just a few days for another sweet little one whose family was recovering from a sickness they did not want T-man to get.

 Respite care is an awesome way to 'get your feet' wet in regards to foster care. You don't have the full-blown responsibilities yet, but you have enough to get a taste of what fostering is all about. For many, it can be a springboard into full time foster care.

Perhaps you haven't been called to full-blown foster care, but maybe, just maybe, you have been called to babysit or to do respite care. There is certainly a need for these things and doing this for a foster family would be such a blessing.

Monday, April 24, 2017

And so it begins...

We were licensed around October 2016. 

The process to become a foster family began long before this tho. God began working on our hearts years before getting us ready to take the leap into the foster world. The need for foster families is so great. There are children out there who needed someone to love them, care for them, stand in the gap for them, and perhaps even be their forever family. We couldn't let one more day go by without doing something to make a difference. 

Sure, we could sit back and let others do the work, after all, maybe being a foster parent wasn't MY calling...I had 2 busy kids to care for and they were finally at the age where they were fairly independent. I actually had time to get the house clean (and keep it clean), meal plan, cook, take on a few hobbies, and even read books again. I was comfortable...very comfortable...except for that small voice growing louder with each passing day telling me...'but I didn't call you to be comfortable'. 

I felt like something was missing and slowly my comfort eroded away and was replaced by the feeling of urgency and the need to DO something. ...So, my husband and I began to go through foster care training. We started making needed changes to our home to get it ready for fostering. And right at about 1 year after attending an informational meeting, we were officially a foster family.   

So, what about you? Is God calling YOU to do something? Maybe it's not fostering, but be sure, God HAS called you to make a difference in the lives of others. So, get out there are do something :)