Sunday, November 2, 2014

On This Orphan Sunday...

On this Orphan Sunday, I thought I would share with you something that I shared with my church family earlier this year.  We have a series of stories written by members of our church describing how the Lord has worked to change our lives for the better.  Mine just happened to be about finding my purpose...  My faith...  My life...  My son...

Numb. Devastated. Lost.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom.  It turned out God had a different plan for me when I had a hysterectomy at the age of thirty due to complications with severe endometriosis.  Still single, with no biological children, I spent the next few years praying and trying to figure out God’s plan for me.  I knew I was meant to be a mother.  I just had no idea how it was going to happen.
In the fall of 2008, I decided to take a leap of faith and become a foster parent.  I had always shied away from fostering because of the usual fears related to having to say goodbye to children that I loved, but as time went on I finally began to trust that God wouldn’t have planted this seed in my heart only to leave me hurting and devastated.  So I dove headfirst into the unpredictable world of foster care, and allowed myself to love my kids with my whole heart despite the inevitable hurt.
While I had always been a believer, that faith was shattered one March afternoon as I stood in a courtroom and learned that the little boy who I had loved as my own for the past year was never coming home.  I had expected pain and tears when my children left my home, but nothing could have prepared me for the all-consuming heartache and flood of emotions that encompassed me in the days and weeks after I lost my little boy.  I was numb.  My heart had a gaping hole that physically ached.  My arms were empty where my little boy should have been.  I was furious that God would allow me to grieve so deeply when He was supposed to be protecting my heart!  I knew that I would never survive another goodbye, so I gave up my foster care license and tried to move on.
I'm not sure if I can say that I've ever fully felt God's presence until a few months after I lost my little boy.  It began slowly.  I would see something that reminded me of my baby and would smile rather than cry.  I would look at the empty crib and imagine another little one who needed me sleeping in it.  As time went on, I began to feel the change within me, and I knew that could only be because of His promise to heal the hurt.  I felt a stronger sense of peace, a renewed purpose, and a faith that I had always HOPED to have, but never really knew that I could find. 
Fulfilled. Hopeful. Blessed.  My life is nothing like I thought it would be when I was younger.  I am most definitely a mom, but my children have come to me in ways I never could have imagined.  Then one afternoon in December of 2012, a two-month-old baby boy was placed in my arms and looked up at me with his “old soul” eyes like he knew something that I didn’t.  That little boy, my "Bug", was dedicated to the Lord here at this amazing church home one year later, and will soon be my first legal forever child as his adoption is finalized next month.
God has healed my heart time and time again over the past five years, and has blessed me beyond what I had ever hoped or thought possible.
I am Tammy (aka. Mimi) and I am CHANGED.

On this Orphan Sunday, and the second day of National Adoption Month, I encourage you to share with someone how your life has been touched by adoption.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, so I thought I would make an attempt to do something every day to celebrate my family, to acknowledge Bug's birth family and heritage, and to raise awareness of the great need for loving homes for the thousands of children waiting for their "forevers."  In 2013, nearly 102,000 children were available for adoption through the foster care system.  One quarter of those children aged out of care without ever finding a forever family.

Over the next thirty days, I would love to encourage all of you to share how adoption has touched your lives with your family, friends, co-workers, church families, etc.  If you have been blessed through adoption, spend time with your children celebrating the things that make them so very special.  Thank people who have helped you along your adoption journeys or encourage a waiting family.  Over the course of the next thirty days, I hope to do the following things (in no particular order), and I hope you will participate as well!

1.  Share information about National Adoption Month on your blog and post your personal list of ways to acknowledge it throughout the month (feel free to use this one if you need ideas!).

2.  Share the story of your adoption journey on your blog or with your place of worship if you have one.  (November 2nd is Orphan Sunday and a perfect opportunity to ask your church family to become involved.)

3.  Send a thank you note to a caseworker, judge, agency, attorney, CASA volunteer, etc. who made a difference in your child(ren)'s case.

4.  Read an adoption-themed book with your child.  Share a list of your favorite adoption-themed books for children on your blog or FB page.

5.  Encourage a family you know who are considering adoption.

6.  Put an adoption themed bumper sticker or decal on your car.

7.  Surprise an adoptive family you know with a goody basket, a meal, free babysitting, a gift card, etc.

8.   Make a handmade craft with your child to use as gifts for their birth family or other important people.

9.  Send up a special prayer for the children still waiting for their forever families.  Pray for the children who have aged out of the foster care system and have no support system to fall back on.  Pray for the families who are considering taking a leap of faith and saying "yes" to these kids.  If you have a place of worship, submit a formal prayer request and ask your church family to pray for these children as well.

10.  Share your favorite adoption blogs, websites, magazines, etc. on your blog or FB page.

11.  Watch home movies and look at photos as a family.  Talk about their stories.  Tell them again how blessed you are to be their parent.

12.  Share a story about a waiting child, sibling group, or family on your blog or FB page.  Search or other photo listing and share one that touches you.  You never know if someone you share with might be that child's forever.

13.  Take a key player in your child's adoption to lunch or give them a call just to say hi and thank you.

14.  Look for events in your area celebrating National Adoption Month, Orphan Sunday, or National Adoption Day and make plans to attend one.

15.  Celebrate your child(ren)'s heritage with a fun meal, art project, etc.

16.  Volunteer with an agency, at an event, orphanage, or other adoption-focused organization.

17.  Connect with a child aging out of the system.  Offer encouragement, mentor them, be a safe place they can come to when they need it.

18.  Read a new "grown-up" book with a focus on adoption.  Share your favorite adoption-themed books on your blog or FB page.

19.  Commit to sponsor a child, family, agency, or adoption-focused organization over the next year.

20.  Send a care package to a group home, orphanage, or your local CPS office.

21.  Have a family movie night.  Pop popcorn, snuggle under blankets in your pajamas, and watch an adoption-themed movie with your kids.

22.  Write a letter to your child's birthparent(s).  It could be mailed.  It could be for your eyes only.  Just write the letter.

23.  Buy a t-shirt or piece of jewelry or other item that expresses your love of adoption.  Heck!  Get a tattoo!  (I plan to! :-)

24.  Research adoption-friendly companies and visit one.  Write them a letter thanking them for their support and for everything that they do to help build and support adoptive families.

25.  Send a card to a new adoptive family.

26.  Get a subscription to an adoption magazine or join an adoption association.

27.  Focus on your family on Thanksgiving Day.  Take turns giving thanks before your meal.  Tell your children again how blessed you are to be their parent.

28.  Find an online support group and listen to others' stories.  Do you have an adult friend whose life was touched by adoption in some way, but have never really heard their story?  Ask them about it.  You never know what you will learn from others until you ask.

29.  Create a new family tradition that specifically celebrates your family.  Take a family photo in the exact same spot every year.  Have the kids draw a family picture to frame and display for the year.

30.  Write a letter to your child(ren).

I hope you will all join me in raising awareness over the course of the next month as we celebrate family and give thanks for what we have.  Adoption touches so many lives in so many ways.  Wouldn't it be amazing to play a small part in giving one more child their "forever?"

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Love Life of a Nearly 2-Year-Old

Bug has a girlfriend.  She is a sophisticated older woman - at least three months older than him, but he is quite smitten and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Every morning as we pull into daycare, Bug starts his daily mantra...

"Katie fun!  Katie funny!  Katie nice!  Katie MINE!!!"

Katie MINE?!?  Oh boy!  I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd be having the "women are not objects to be 'had'" talk with my 21-month-old, but it looks like a little discussion might be in order. 

Their romance began in May when Bug was moved up to the big kid class.  Apparently both children had "matured" during those few months apart (she had moved up before him), and it seems they saw each other in a whole new light.

Every morning when Bug walks into class, he calls out her name and runs up to the table where Katie is sitting.  She immediately shouts, "Bug!" and stands up, pulls out the chair next to her, and orders "Sit here, Bug."  He immediately sits (which I'm guessing might be a big reason Katie likes Bug so much.  Lol.)  They seem to be inseparable.  Every time I walk in and Katie hasn't already left for the day, they are without fail glued to each other's side.  I ask Bug what he did each day, and each day he tells me what Katie did.

I knew we had a genuine "romance" on our hands yesterday when we pulled up to school and the kids' teacher was walking into another building holding Katie's hand.  Bug spotted Katie.  Katie spotted Bug...  And what followed was the most dramatic display of star-crossed love that I have ever witnessed as I pulled Bug towards one building and their teacher walked in the opposite direction with the love of his life.

Bug tried desperately to pull me in the direction of the other building crying, "NO!  KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie frantically looked for a way to escape as she called out, "BUUUUUGGGG!!!"  Bug tried to break free of my grasp, "KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie cried out, "BUUUUGGGG!!!" 

Fortunately for the two little lovebirds, Katie's trip to the other building was a quick one, and she and her teacher walked into our building before I had finished checking Bug in for the day.  On a typical day, Bug stays by my side as we walk back to his classroom.  Not this day!  All thoughts of Mommy disappeared the second Katie walked in the door when the two immediately started laughing hysterically and ran together towards their class.

"Um, okay then...  Bye, Buggy!  Have a nice day!  I love you!"

But it was too late.  Mommy had been replaced by a girl.  Guess I'd better get used to it.  My kid's a pretty handsome charmer (if I do say so myself).  I have a feeling Katie is just one of many "loves" along the way.  At least I know that those girls will come and go, but Mommy is FOREVER!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You Mean You Don't Do That? Oh...

The other day, my co-workers and I somehow ended up in a conversation about talking to ourselves.  One friend mentioned how she tends to talk to herself at the grocery store saying things like, "Oh, man!  I forgot the chips!"  Another said she talks to other drivers on the road even though they can't hear her exclaiming, "A blinker would be nice, mister!"
That's when I piped in with, "RIGHT?!?  And when you talk about yourself in the 3rd person because you're a mom.  Like 'Mommy needs to get Diet Coke' or 'Mommy forgot the diapers' or 'Mommy needs to go potty!'" 
They all laughed and one friend said, "Yeah...  But that's okay because you have the baby with you."
And this is where my fatal error occurred.  There's that filter that most people have that sensors your words before they come out of your mouth.  Mine doesn't always work properly, and this was one of those times when it failed me miserably.
When my friend said, "... you have the baby with you," I should have said, "Uh... Yeah.  That's right.  The baby...  Yeah."
What I actually said was, "Ha! No, I don't."
All light-hearted banter ceased, and everyone stared at me with that "Oh...  This poor girl needs medication" look on their faces.  You could hear the crickets chirping in the silence as they stared at me with their mouths agape in disbelief.  "Oh, honey.  That's bad..." they said.
You mean you don't do that?!?  Oh...  Oops!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Words That Take Your Breath Away

"Thank you for taking care of us."

Those were the words spoken by an 8-year-old little girl last night as a stranger tucked her into bed.  She and her younger siblings had just been removed from their home in the middle of the night and placed with people they didn't know.  So many times we try to anticipate our children's feelings.  Are they frightened?  Are they confused?  How can we help them?  And so many times, these children stop us in our tracks with only a few words.

"Thank you for taking care of us."

When I read those words on my friend's FB page this morning, all I could think was "wow..."  I kept coming back to it over and over again, my heart simultaneously breaking for that little girl and her siblings and thanking God that, at least for now, they are in a safe and loving home.  I kept coming back to those words and let them truly sink in, and I thought about all of the other times that a child's innocent words have left an ache in my heart.

I remember the first time I provided respite for a foster family, when 6-year-old Rocket asked me "So what exactly are the rules in your house?"  I think he was under the impression that I didn't have any because I really hadn't had to get onto him for anything.  I told him that my main rule is to "be respectful of others" and that included things like no yelling in the house (because I have neighbors upstairs), no hitting or kicking, etc.  He replied, "Why no hitting?" I told him that hitting hurts people, and that I never wanted anyone to be hurt. Rocket's face fell, and he replied in a quiet little voice, "People hit at my real house."  :'(   I knelt down in front of him and told him that that made me sad and that I was really sorry to hear that.   Then I assured him that no one hits at my house.  Ever.  He looked up, smiled, and said, "You're a really nice lady!" and then went on about his day as if he hadn't just taken my breath away with a few little sentences.  I'm so used to only fostering infants and toddlers that it was a whole new experience having children who could verbalize their experiences before coming into care.

Photo used with permission
Yesterday, another foster mama friend posted this picture in a foster parent support group.  It is a list of questions that her foster daughter has for her social worker.  Things like "Am I going back home," "How are Mom and Dad doing," and "Is any family member trying to get me?"  Her foster mom said that her foster siblings recently went to live with an aunt, and this little girl so desperately wants someone in her family to want her too. 

No child should ever feel unwanted.  No child should ever feel fear in their own home.  No child should ever be put in a position to thank complete strangers for doing what their own parents should have done.  No child should ever have to be in foster care.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children are living out these things every day.  Foster care is necessary because some parents will fail their children.  It is our responsibility as foster parents to walk with these kids through times of uncertainty, hurt, and fear of the unknown.  We do our very best to be an anchor for these children to hold on to when the big feelings come and threaten to take over.  And when their words hit us in a way that leave us heartbroken and breathless, we let them them know without a doubt that they are loved, that they are safe, and that they are most definitely wanted.
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