Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potty Time (or Not...)

(Drawing by "Mimi")
It has happened...  Monkey has hit that stage in his development where he likes to stick his hand under the bathroom door and call out, "Mama?"

The current development is an improvement, I suppose.  He usually beats me to the restroom and attempts to climb into my lap, sit on my feet, take all of his toys out of his bathtub caddy, or throw every last toy he can find into the bathtub while I'm indisposed.  I'll take a toddler hand under the door over a toddler on my lap while I'm on the potty any day!

I think most moms consider it a grand vacation when they get the rare opportunity to potty in peace.  I remember my sister telling me about one particular time when Buddy was about 3 years old.  The twins were learning all about "privacy" and were eager to put it into practice and show that they understood what that term meant.

Buddy (outside the closed bathroom door) -  "Mommy???  Mommy???  Are you in there?"
Christy - "Yeah, Buddy.  I'm in the restroom."
Buddy - "Whatchya doin' in there?"
Christy - "I'll be out in a minute, sweetie. Go play!"
Buddy - "Can I come in?"
Christy - "Not right now, honey."
Buddy - "Are you going potty?"
Christy - "Yeah, baby.  I'll be out in a minute."
Buddy - "Are you going #1 or #2?"
Christy - "Don't worry about it, Buddy.  That's private.  Go play!"
Buddy - "Can you see me, Mommy?" (looking under the door)
Christy - "Buddy, don't look under the door."
Buddy - "Oh, okay." (pause)  "Can you see my hand?" (sticking hand under the door)
Christy - "Yes, I can see your hand.  Go play!"
Buddy - "Do you need privacy?"
Christy - "Yes, Buddy.  I need privacy."
Buddy - "Oh, okay."
Buddy - "I'll just wait for you right here then!"

Having only fostered infants and toddlers (and one teen), I haven't really ever had to deal with the bathroom conversations before.  That should prove to be a fun new experience when I get my first preschooler.  :-)  Most of my "potty time" involves multi-tasking (when I can get free of the children), cleaning up messes that I'd rather not have to clean up, and trying to entertain toddlers and my cat who inevitably follow me in there and then get fussy when I won't play with them! 

One day, I will be able to potty in peace.  Probably not anytime soon though, so I suppose I'll just have to get used to having an audience.  :-)

... And so are the days of my life ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Wild Ride (The Conclusion)

After getting the call about Little Miss and Itty Bitty coming back into care, it occurred to me that I never finished telling the story of those few days that both girls were with me and their return to their father's care.  (View Part One, Part Two, and Part Three to catch up.)

Monday morning rolled around and I still hadn't heard a word from the girls' caseworker regarding if/when they were actually having a court hearing.  It wasn't that big of a surprise.  I had only spoken to that caseworker one time since Little Miss was placed with me, and that was on the day that Itty Bitty was released from the hospital.  To say that I was less than impressed would be an understatement.  I've had overworked, over-stressed, over-extended workers before, and I totally understand that.  This woman, however, was all of that plus over the job in general.  It was clear she didn't want to be there and didn't care about the kids.  I tried to "kill her with kindness," but that just seemed to irritate her even more.  I ended up just letting her go on her merry way and avoided contacting her unless it was absolutely necessary.

Because I had no idea if/when court was actually happening, I decided to go about my day as usual but with the assumption that the girls would be heading home at some point.  I packed up some of the girls' things, hung out with Little Miss for a while, and then took her to daycare as usual before heading to the Angel Couple's house to pick up Itty Bitty from respite.

I couldn't believe my eyes (and ears) when I walked into the home of the Angel Couple.  Itty Bitty was wasn't screaming!  I quickly learned that Angel Couple was actually a 5-person Angel Family, and Bitty had been held, rocked, played with, and spoiled rotten by the couple and their three awesome kids all weekend.  We decided then and there that if the girls didn't go back to their father that day, we were going to push like crazy to have Itty Bitty moved to the Angel Family's home and do sibling visits with the girls.  Bitty was content, Little Miss was happy with me, and we were willing to do whatever we had to to keep it that way.

I spent the next two hours trying to reach the caseworker (aka. "The Bitter & Angry One").  She finally sent me a text message (a text message!) saying, "Girls going to dad.  Get their things.  Be there in an hour."  I high-tailed it over to daycare to get Little Miss, called my mom to come over to cater to Bitty, and Miss and I finished packing and played.

When The Bitter & Angry One showed up at the door, it was abundantly clear that she wasn't happy about being there.  In the ten minutes the woman was in our presence, she complained about:

  • The distance of the drive
  • How tired she was
  • How her legs hurt
  • The amount of things that I was sending home with the girls 
  • The fact that Bitty was fussy
  • and everything else you can think of...
Yes, the girls had a lot of stuff.  They were two infants!  They had complete wardrobes, diapers, formula, bottles, toys, food, etc.  I'm sorry your legs hurt and you are tired.  But to come into my home, not even glance at the girls whose lives are being uprooted and turned upside down yet again, and immediately start complaining about your life...  My mom and I were so disgusted with her that we just sat there with the babies while we watched her load all of the girls' things.  :-)

After The Bitter & Angry One loaded the car, she walked back into the apartment and grumbled, "Bring the babies."  (Kind of like you would tell your kid to take out the trash or to let the dog out...)  She stood outside the car with her arms crossed, rolling her eyes, and giving us dirty looks while we said goodbye to Little Miss and Itty Bitty and loaded them into the car.  She never once spoke to either of the girls.  I gave the girls one last kiss and that woman tore out of there without ever looking back.  She had a long drive ahead of her.  A fact of which she made us perfectly aware.

And all I could do was pray that the girls would be okay...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Changing My Reaction...

I received a fantastic comment yesterday in response to an old post that I had written about that comment that drives most foster parents completely nuts.  You know the one...  "I would love them too much.  I just couldn't let them go!  Doesn't it hurt?"

As a foster parent, my gut reaction to that comment is to take offense.  I always feel like the statement is in some way putting me down or saying that I don't love enough and have a heart of steel to be "able" to let my kids go in the end.  I take offense because I do hurt so much when I lose them, and that comment makes me feel like they think I don't.

This response to that post made me take a look at my reaction, and will help me try to view that comment in a different light:

Shawnicy said...
I have never read your blog before today, but I felt moved to comment.  I am probably one of those women you speak of, but please let me explain.  I know that you love them dearly, and I would NEVER think that you don't.  I hold what you do, opening your hearts and home to kids who so desperately need to be loved as one of the most amazing things a person can do!  My reason for not being able to do that is that I know I am not STRONG enough to do the amazing work you do.  I KNOW you are stronger than I am and that you have been called to love these kids and care for them.  I know that as much as I would love to hold them, love them, and keep them safe, that isn't my calling.  I love and support all those who do cause I know there are times when they too need the support and love when their calling gets a little tough.  I know that I can pray for them to have the strength when they need it and the peace and comfort when it is hard.  But please don't think we think any less of you!  At least for me I know that while being a mom can be one of the hardest jobs out there I think being a foster mom is even more.  Knowing that you get to love someone with every fiber of your being and knowing that you may not get to hold them forever, yet still putting yourself out there for them.  You are my heroes!!

The next time a random stranger or casual acquaintance tells me that they "just couldn't do it," I will do my best to give them the benefit of the doubt and try not to take offense.  I will try to take it as a compliment rather than an attack on my character or ability to love.  Foster care is not for everyone.  It is hard, and Shawnicy's response made me realize that people do understand that.  Thank you, Shawnicy!!!  :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Favorite Fostering Ages?

I have a question for all of you seasoned foster parents out there, and I'm not patient enough to wait until the 2nd Friday of June for "Foster Friday Q&A" to get the answer.  So...  I'm asking today!  :-)

I'm moving into my bigger and better place in just over three weeks, and I'll be able to once again say, "Bring on the kiddos!" when my agency calls about a placement.  Along with the big move and the fact that I continue to have Monkey four days a week also comes some decisions.  I find myself re-evaluating my age range when it comes to foster care, and I'd love to hear from all of you!

I've only ever fostered infants/toddlers and one teen.  With summer coming up, part of me is thinking that a preschool or young elementary school age child might be a great fit for our family right now, but I just don't know.  Babies are easy when it comes to their emotional needs and behaviors.  I've never parented an older child from a hard place before.

So my questions to all of you (if you will pretty please humor me) are:

"What has been your favorite age to foster and why?"


"What has been your most challenging age to foster and why?"

I'd really love to hear your input!!!

I Had a Stalker, and He Smelled Funky!

I was being followed. 

I couldn't actually see him, but I knew he was there. 

You know how you get that feeling that something is just off?  Like you're being watched?  That feeling that makes you turn around and look behind you every few steps?  Well, I had that exact feeling the other day!

It started right after I left my house to head to work.  I got in my car, and immediately I knew something wasn't right.  There was an odor in my car that I just couldn't place.  I started to look around thinking that maybe I had accidentally left a fast food bag of food or missed a bag of groceries that were now rotting in the hot car.  Finding nothing, I thought "OMG!  Did I leave the car unlocked?  Did a homeless person sleep in my backseat?!?"  By the time I arrived at work, I had pretty much resigned myself to thinking that a field mouse or some other small critter had crawled up in my engine and met its demise.

I didn't give the smell another thought until I stepped into the restroom at the office.  The smell was back!  Clearly someone was following me!  It was the only explanation!  I quickly ran into a stall and locked myself in.  I waited for a bit until the last person left the restroom, and I bolted back to my desk.

Throughout the remainder of the day, that smell came and went.  It followed me everywhere.  In the file room, in the copy room, in the elevator...  By the time I got home, I was freaking out!  I had a stalker!!!  I ran into the apartment and locked the deadbolt.  I turned and leaned against the locked door, finally safe inside my home.  I knew that funky-smelling stalker wasn't in my house because he was clearly hiding in my car.

Finally ready to let my guard down, I kicked off my shoes to settle in for a relaxing evening...  And I was hit full-force with an odor that made my eyes water by its sheer power.

Yep...  I had a stalker...  and he smelled funky!!!

My "stalker" was last year's summer shoes.

(*** Note to self...  Replace summer shoes yearly!!! ***)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Shout-Out Sunday"

Time for another "Shout-out Sunday!"

1)  Not sure how I missed this one!  It was actually written on 5/4, but it's way too good not to share this week.  "What REALLY Stops Them?" written by Sophie asks the question "What really stops people from fostering?"  Is it the usual excuse that "I could never let them go," or is it really "I could never let them stay...  forever."  Very thought-provoking post...

2)  Debbie was prompted to write her Tuesday post entitled "Reunification or Adoption Motivated" after a recent discussion in one of our online foster parent support groups.  Such a good reminder that not all "goodbyes" are bad, and that successful reunifications should be celebrated.

3)  Delilah's post, "I Used to be a Perfect Mom" cracked. me. up!!!  I think every mother has been there.  We were all perfect mothers...  until we had kids!  Her post reminded me of one that I had written right after Booger and Angel moved in with me called "...And I Said 'I WILL NEVER...'"  Sometimes you just find yourself doing things you never thought you would when you were a "perfect" mom.  :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Foster Friday" Panel - The Waiting Game

The world of foster care is full of twists, turns, and changes.  It is an emotional roller coaster that leaves you both breathless and anxious.  In the world of foster care, "time" has a new definition.  "Time" is defined in terms of waiting.

Dani - Waiting.  Waiting sucks, that's about all I can say.  It's now been over ten and a half months since we turned in our paperwork and just over eight months since we were told we'd be certified.  I never thought a year ago that we wouldn't have some wonderful additions to be thankful for at Thanksgiving or see the excitement of Christmas through the eyes of a child.  My new wish is that we will have a house full over the summer.

I try to keep myself busy now doing things I know will be harder with kids around.  It doesn't really make it any easier for me, but at least the house is super clean, the garden is planted, and the dogs are well trained.  I've finished those books I've been wanting to read, and we're getting fat and sassy from all of the goodies I've baked.  I also made close to a dozen blankets, so that when we do get kids, they can pick out a blankie of their very own to keep as long as they wish.

I hope this wait ends soon!

Andrea ("Live with Laughter") -  Waiting.  It's called "The Waiting Game," what a crock.  A game with no rules and no insight to what the outcome could be.  No scoreboards and no referees.  If it's a game, it's the worst one ever.  A game when there is sometimes no one on our side, no one cheering for our team to win.  Other times our sides of the bleachers are overflowing with standing room only.  Everyone cheering.

We, as foster parents, wait.  It's all part of the choice we made.  We wait for the classes to end, wait for the homestudy to be completed, wait for the phone to ring, wait for the child to arrive, wait for court hearings, wait to see how the "professionals" will change our lives, wait for our children to return from their first visitation, we wait for adoption decrees, and sometimes we wait until we have to say goodbye to our kids.

In between all these BIG waits are the little waits.  We wait for the social worker to return our calls.  We wait for the clothing voucher to arrive.  We wait for our monthly check.  We wait for the doctor referrals.  We wait for Medicaid to get their act together and treat our children.  We wait in doctors offices for endless hours.  We wait up in the middle of the night praying they will be comforted and sleep.

We wait.  We wait for change in development, change in behavior, and change in health.  We wait for smiles, first teeth, and first steps.  We wait for the day they look into our eyes and know that they are safe.  We wait for the day they know they are loved.

Heather ("Us") - Right now we are waiting to finalize {adoption}!  We got our official date the first of March for the first of June.  This wait has been our longest, and time seems to be going at the pace of a sleeping snail.  This has also been the hardest wait.  I am so afraid that at any time the rug will be pulled out from under our feet.  Everything seems too good to be true.  I have just started to realize that these kids will be sticking around forever, and sometimes that is horrifying to process.  I mean we will be in complete control of what happens with these kids and their futures and all that "fun" stuff.  I have never had to process kids staying.  They would usually be leaving around this time!

I never expected to have a hard time processing kids staying.  I am so excited for it to be final and know that these kids are finally "stuck" forever and won't just be leaving at a minute's notice.  So right now, I am waiting to see what a life with forever kids seems like.  And the wait is driving me more crazy...

Debbie ("Always and Forever Family") - Waiting on court was torturous for us.  We knew what was right, that our foster girls of two months should be given to their biological grandfather, but given the history of misinformation we knew it would take a miracle for that to happen.  We have a good relationship with their bio grandfather and walked the case with them.  As we waited, the feeling of someone else having our future in their hands was amazing.  I'd never really experienced the hopelessness before.  Not being able to do a thing about what we all (even social workers) knew was right.  It gave me a glimpse of what biological families that are working their plans must go through. The hopelessness and faith we all had to place in the state.  Doing what they ask and hoping we did it right.

Grandfather was denied at that court hearing and our worlds stopped.  We were crushed, and didn't know what to do.  They appealed and got a hearing date for three weeks later.  The results were not given until five weeks after that!  Those weeks of waiting were the worst.  Every day that passed felt like another denial...  Felt like the girls were going to be stuck in foster care when they shouldn't be.  They had already lost so much.  They needed to be with their family.  Thankfully, our waiting ended in joy, Grandfather was approved, and the girls have been living with their Grandfather for 2 1/2 months now.

Marie (aka. Mie) ("Letting Go of Mie") - Right now we're waiting.

In foster care you're always waiting for something - a call, a visit, a court-date, a decision - you get used to waiting.

We're waiting to know what is going to happen in this case.  As soon as you say yes to a foster placement, you begin waiting to see what happens in the case.  The initial plan is almost always reunification so the initial plan is never a good indicator or what will actually happen.

So you begin the wait, which follows the wait for the call and precedes the wait for a permanency.

I just got word that our next court-date will be moved up from the end of June to the beginning of June.  This should be the last court date before the case is scheduled to end.  Of course this doesn't mean it will end, just that it should end according to the rule that the kids should be moving toward permanency in 12 months.  You get an additional 6 months of waiting if your case is one of the lucky many that get extended beyond the original dismissal date.  I think that will happen with this case, but I have no idea.

It's funny how each case is so dramatically different.  Sure, all the same roles are there (birth parents, caseworkers, attorneys, judges) and the same steps generally occur (placement, permanency conferences, hearings, permanency) but the details of each case and how each case is handled are vastly different from case to case and so as you become a more skilled foster parent, you become less confident in your abilities to predict what will happen in each case.

This case is our 6th.  I'm better at knowing I have no idea what will happen.  I know that talk continues to be of reunification.  That is the current plan.  There is no family that has been identified as a valid placement.  If things change from reunification the kiddos will likely not be adopted by kin.  The judge says that despite some progress neither parent is successfully meeting the requirements of their service plan.  This is very clear with one parent - the other is trying.  I'm told this other parent's actions may be enough to get their kids back, but it really is the bare minimum and there is "a lot more that needs to be done."  I'm told their case is scheduled to end in August and then I'm told the kids will not go home before then "if ever."  I'm asked to let them talk to their mom on Mother's Day, and then when I ask whether they will get more frequent communication with her, I'm told they don't see that happening, that it's not a good idea.  I'm led to believe that reunification will happen.  I'm led to believe that TPR is probable.  By the same people.

Based on recent "activity" in the case - and by that I mean the stuff going on in the background, the various questions people are asking mie, that something will happen at this next court date which is only a few weeks away.  I was directly told they will not be going home on that date.  I know better than to trust that absolutely, but I doubt they will actually send the kiddos home then.  So now I'm waiting to see what happens at the next court date, expecting a change in the plans and yet knowing it will likely be "uneventful" like most hearings.

So I'm waiting for the hearing because I'm waiting to know what will happen in August because I'm waiting to know if these kids will be going back to their birth parents or whether they will ask us to adopt them.

In August I will either be waiting for an extended date, waiting for their return-to-monitor date, or waiting through the appeals process.  And then I'll be waiting for another call or I'll be waiting for finalization.  And then I'll be waiting for another call.

I've been told by so many non-foster families that they can't imagine how we handle the ever-changing nature of our lives.  In reality - our lives are full of waiting.  Things aren't ever-changing because nothing is ever set in stone.  But that is fine by mie.  Stone is inflexible and breakable.  I'm okay being shaped.  I'd rather not be broken.

And so we wait.

Casey ("A Single Foster Mom's Diary") - As parents, adoptive or foster, we accept that waiting is a guaranteed part of parenting.  We wait for a child to arrive to our home, we wait for the child to acclimate to our family, we wait for emotional/behavioral patterns to change, we wait in court, we wait in meetings, we wait for visits, and we wait for calls, emails, and so on.  We as trained providers, the Moms or Dads, the grownups who are adept at waiting, can be easily challenged emotionally and sometimes physically, just by waiting.  We can become frustrated by having to wait for a need to be met, whether it is our need or the need of someone we're responsible for.  We may have legitimate expectations of how long we should wait, some expectations are met and some not.  We can experience waiting patiently or impatiently.  As responsible adults that have a cognitive social competence, we understand that sometimes, despite any sense of urgency or importance of issue, we just have to wait.

With all our experience and life skills, we still can be extremely challenged with the simple task of waiting.  In terms of a foster child, I have to wonder, as difficult as it can be for me to wait, regardless of what I'm waiting for, how is it then for a foster child to wait?  They certainly don't have the cognitive ability that I have, the social skills to handle the disappointment of having to wait, or the complex understanding that even though they wait, they still might not receive what they've been waiting for.

I think back to the days of my foster son waiting for his visitation with bio Mom and Dad.  I remember the excitement in him on those days that he knew to be the visitation day.  I specifically remember the emotions he would go through while having to wait.  Fortunately, his waiting would usually (but not always) pay off with a visit at the state office.  Some days though, the waiting would become overwhelming and he would tantrum.  It was clearly evident that for him, waiting was a painful process regardless of the payoff or lack thereof.

As much as we think we are always the ones always waiting, our little foster kiddos are truly the people affected by the waiting game.  I'm certain although we waited in anticipation of their arrival to our homes and lives that the arrival of these kiddos, mean for them the beginning of their wait.  How overwhelming the feeling of waiting has to be for these kids; such as the wait to see their Mom again, and soon.  How about the wait to hear Dad's voice on the phone, or think about the biggest wait of all, the wait to go home.  These kids wait for unimaginable things, like the wait to see if they get to eat, waiting to see if there's abuse or neglect "waiting" around every corner.  They wait to let their guard down and hope to fit in; they are always waiting to feel loved and safe...  Considering the trauma these kids have been through before they arrived in our home, we have to anticipate the emotions they must have which inevitably include waiting.

Perspective is amazing.

Sometimes They Come Back...

At 11:30 last night, I got the phone call that breaks the heart of every foster parent.  Little Miss and Itty Bitty were being brought back into care along with their new 7-month-old sibling, and they wanted to know if I could take them.  After a year and a half, those baby girls (now 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old) are back in foster care for the second time.

I couldn't take all of them.  They weren't really thinking clearly when they called me.  With all three and Monkey, I would be well over ratio of children that young to one parent.  I did offer to take Little Miss if they couldn't find a home that could take all three of them though.

I spent the next hour and a half running around and trying to get my house CPS-proof again.  I tried to get set up for a 2 1/2 year old the best I could.  I started freaking out a bit because I'm moving in four weeks.  What was I thinking to say "yes" to a placement four weeks before I'm supposed to move?!?  I couldn't say "no" though.  Little Miss' sad little eyes still weigh heavy on my heart even after all this time.  If she couldn't be with her siblings, I at least wanted her with me.  I know she wouldn't remember me, but I remember her, and that's something anyway...

Fortunately, I got a call around 1:00am saying they were finally able to find a home for all three little ones.  I'm glad the kids are together, but it breaks my heart that their parents couldn't get it together and step up for their kids.  It's one of the sad realities of foster care.  There are success stories...  And there are parents who inevitably fail their children over and over again.

Last night was a reminder of why I continue to do this.  Because these little ones deserve someone stable in their lives.  They deserve a safe place in the midst of the storm.  They deserve joyful childhood memories.  They deserve someone who will open their hearts and make them the center of their world.  They deserve the time to heal and the time to learn to trust.  They deserve to feel unconditionally loved.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The A-Z's of Motherhood to a Toddler (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of "The A-Z's of Motherhood to a Toddler," check it out here!

And now for the Conclusion (took me long enough, huh? ;-) of:

Sure Signs That You Are Parenting a Toddler

"No" - Since Monkey has started crawling and exploring the house, I believe I have said the word "no" about a million times. For the most part, I reserve it for when he is about to get into something that could harm himself or others (aka. Kitty Cat Tommie). "No, Monkey... Be gentle." "No, Monkey... Stop chasing Kitty Cat Tommie." "No, Monkey... Don't chew Kitty Cat Tommie's tail." "OMG! MONKEY! NO!!! STOP IT!!!" When the kids have hit the older toddlerhood stage, the roles reverse, and the word "no" comes from their mouths. When Booger was about 15 months old, I counted one morning. Booger was barely awake for 60 seconds, and the word "no" came out of his mouth 47 times. Literally. 47. Times. There was also an "elephant," a "pancake," and a "bra" mixed in there too. I'd love to know his thought process on that one!

Obstacle courses - It was one thing when the toys and baby gear were stationary.  I knew that the swing was going to be in the swing's permanent location, but the kid becomes mobile, and it's an entirely new ballgame!  Toys seem to appear in the middle of my path out of nowhere.  Hundreds of balls cover my living room floor because I had the oh-so-brilliant idea to get the boy a ball pit.  I clear a path, only to turn around and find my toddler has put new and improved obstacles in the way!  Monkey also tends to be the obstacle as he follows me everywhere and is always underfoot.

Purse contents - You know you're parenting a toddler when the total sum of your purse contents include wet wipes, a diaper, a container of puffs, a small toy, and an itty bitty little coin purse that carries everything from cash to credit cards to insurance cards to frequent shopper cards to your driver's license.

Quiet - "Quiet" is never a good thing when it comes to toddlers at play. When Buddy and Ka-Diva were a couple of years old, my sister went to take a shower and told my brother-in-law to keep an eye on the twins. When she came back to the living room 15 minutes later, the twins weren't there. "Chris, where are the kids?" "Oh, they're in Ka-Diva's room. They're being good. They've been really quiet." And that, my friends, is a phrase that no mother wants to hear. Christy walked in to find Ka-Diva "fixing Buddy's hair" (she wanted to be a "haircutter" like our cousin Ariel). Unfortunately, she was "fixing" his hair with an entire tub of Vaseline. It was Christmas Eve. And Vaseline does not come out easily, my friends.

Repetition to the point of insanity - "Mama? Mama? Mommy? Mama? Mama? Mama? Mommy? Mommy? Mama? Mama? Mama?" "OMG! WHAT?!?" "Hi." ;-) ... And then there's the whole "put toy in, take toy out... put toy in, take toy out... put toy in, take toy out..." thing. Or "push the button, push the button, push the button, push the button..." Or "spin, spin, spin, spin, spin (he is actually spinning a toy right now. The same toy that he has been spinning non-stop for the past 10 minutes.) If I wasn't already medicated, I think I would need to be.

Separation Anxiety -  Over the past few weeks, I seem to have found myself the proud recipient of a new appendage. It's quite remarkable, really... It tends to relocate itself from my leg to my shoulder to my arm to my other leg, etc. all on its very own!  Yes... Monkey has hit the "I WANT MY MAMA! Complete and Total Separation Anxiety" stage of his development that all toddlers tend to go through.  He follows me into the restroom.  He cries if I'm not in his line of sight.  Most of the time, being in the same room isn't enough and he feels the need to attach himself to my body in whatever way he can.  Fortunately, this stage hasn't lasted too long with most of my little ones, so one day soon I should be able to shower without an audience.

Thinking they're smarter than we are - I don't know what it is about this age, but it's like you can just see the little wheels turning in their heads as they try to one-up you!  Toddlers are notorious for deliberately getting things that they know they aren't supposed to have, only to walk it clear across the house to hand it to you.  Like, "Here, Mama...  I know I'm not supposed to touch this, so I'm handing it to you for safe-keeping."  When Booger was about 16-months-old, he would actually try to haggle with me on "Barney" time.  He loved the "I Love You" song, and would always ask for me to repeat it.  I would say, "Okay, one more time."  ...and the little toot would turn around, hold up his fingers, and say "Two."  I am constantly catching Monkey staring at the baby gate to the stairs and the barrier that I use to block off the kitchen just looking for chinks in the armor.  If he finds one, that kid moves at light speed to reach the unattainable room.  Little Miss had that "old soul" mentality, and I fear that kid actually was smarter than me half of the time!

Undesirable "gifts" - That whole "thinking they're smarter than we are" thing leads directly to undesirable "gifts."  When Buddy and Ka-Diva were toddlers, they would often hand my sister dead bugs or other things they wanted to pass off as "trash."  I, personally, have been the recipient of boogers, chewed up food taken out of a toddler's mouth, a worm, multiple insects (dead and alive), and several unidentifiable objects and substances which I would just as soon remain in the dark about as to their origins.

Vanishing children - There one second, gone the next.  Toddlers are fast little suckers!  It's like they do their very best to lull you into a false sense of security as infants when they struggle just to do Tummy Time or to roll over.  Suddenly, and usually without any warning whatsoever, they start to crawl and walk.  The infant that you laid down on the play mat while you stepped into the kitchen for a drink isn't there when you get back!  You find her using the back of the sofa as a balance beam.

WTF?!? moments - Tiny babies never have them, but turn your back for two seconds, and you will turn back around to find your toddler doing things you never even dreamed would happen. Let your guard down for a moment and you might very well find yourself the recipient of a handful of poop from a dirty diaper. F'real. Booger did that to his great grandfather on a home visit with his daddy, and I kept that boy in onesies until the day he left!

X-reme embrarrassment public places - I realized around 14 months old that Booger had no filter.  One shopping trip, when we were passing through a lingerie section, Booger started pointing and shouting, "RA!!!  RA!!!"  (OMG!  Is it possible to pretend like I don't know this baby?)  I tried to ignore him, thinking he would stop.  But when I failed to acknowledge his excited exclamations, he started pulling on my arm, pointing at bras, and shouting, "Mimi!!!  RA!!!  RA, Mimi!!!"  I leaned down and whispered, "Yes, baby.  You're right.  Those are bras."  I tried to ignore the stares and not-so-muffled chuckling of the other shoppers, but that's rather difficult to do when your child is engaging them in conversation by smiling, saying "hi," then pointing to the bras, and shouting, "RA!!!"  Seriously.  Shoot me now.  CPS is SOOOO going to take my license away.

Yo Gabba Gabba! (and all of those other obnoxious toddler cartoons) - I've never been a fan of letting my little ones watch a lot of TV.  That is to say, I was never a fan before I had kids.  Now I will freely admit that sometimes that TV is a lifesaver.  Just when I think I'm about to lose my mind chasing and disciplining a rambunctious toddler, I ask "Do you want to watch 'Thomas?!?'"  The hyperactive one whips his head around and stares, completely mesmerized, for a full twenty minutes while I attempt to regain my sanity.  Said sanity is usually called into question the following workday when I can't stop humming the "Cookie! Cookie!" song from "Barney."  Oh well...  Just one of the many hazards of parenting a toddler, I suppose...

Zoology lessons (aka. animal sounds) - Do you know what a llama sounds like? Neither do I! But leave it to a toddler to hound you over and over again until you at least make something up! Fortunately, Monkey is currently content with the quacking duck, the meowing kitty cat, and the barking puppy dog. I am sort of dreading the day that he wants to hear my rendition of an aardvark though. I'm not really sure what to do with that.

And those, my friends, are my sure signs that you are parenting a toddler...  Do you have any that you would add? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Buddy, the Baby Whisperer

My nephew, Buddy, is the absolute sweetest, most loving child you will ever meet in your life.  He is always trying to take care of people, make everyone happy and comfortable, and is very protective of his twin sister and the Mini Munchkins.  He has been amazing with all of my foster babies, and is always one of their favorite people because of it.  You could definitely see why when I interviewed the twins for last week's "Foster Friday Q & A."  Buddy's answers were so full of love!

I've always known that Buddy has an amazing heart, but I think my first glimpse into just how special he really is came when he met my very first foster child.  Buddy was only four years old when he met my little Immobile Munchkin, but the impression that little girl made on him remains to this day.  Even at that young age, he knew she was special.  She was fragile.  Munchkin was his first glimpse into the need for foster care, and I think that the special care and attention that he gives to my little ones partially stems from that first meeting with that baby girl.  My kids need extra love, and Buddy knows it.

When Booger came to me a few weeks after Munchkin left, Buddy immediately took his role of "oldest foster cousin" very seriously.  He was Booger's constant companion, teacher, helper, and protector, developing a relationship that has lasted to this day.  Booger absolutely worships Buddy.  At seven years old, having a constant 3-year-old "shadow" can get annoying at times, but Buddy takes it all in stride.  In his words, "I have to set a good example."

Watching Buddy with all of my kids, his brother and sisters, Banana, and even other kids he comes into contact with, it's clear that he's an "old soul" and wise beyond his years.  He constantly takes others under his wing and does his best to make them feel safe and happy.  He cares.  And little kids know it.

When Little Miss came to me, she was a sad little thing.  To see true grief in the eyes of an 11-month-old is a terrible thing.  She rarely smiled in the beginning, but if anyone could bring a smile to those sad little eyes, Buddy could.  She knew she was safe with him.  She knew he loved her.  And she knew that when Buddy was around, she mattered.  She was the center of his world, and that made all the difference for a little girl who had never had that before.

I love looking through all of my pictures of Buddy.  Each and every photograph depicts a loving, protective, nurturing boy usually with a baby, toddler, or preschooler glued to his side.  Banana is so smitten that she refuses to let him get more than an arm's length away (although I think the feeling's mutual :-).

I am so unbelievably in awe of this kid.  He inspires me every single day, and I can't say enough how very, very proud I am of him!  :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


One year ago today, this chunky little guy came through my door!  (So happy I can share his picture now!!! :-)

I can't believe how much he's changed.

I can't believe how much he's changed me.

I never thought I would take a baby that young.  I'm a single, full-time working mom.  I like sleep!  I need sleep, and newborns are definitely not conducive to sleep.  But when I got the late night call about a 2-month-old baby boy, I was shocked to hear the words, "Sure!  Let me throw on a bra, and you can bring him on over!" come out of my mouth.  I wasn't so much shocked that I said something about my undergarments to a caseworker who I'd never met before as I was that I had just agreed to kiss away my slumber for the next several months without batting an eye!  I couldn't believe I'd said "yes," but I'm a firm believer in going with my initial instincts when it comes to taking placements (a lesson I learned the hard way).  If "yes" came out of my mouth, who was I to question it?  :-)

Over the next several months, that little Monkey put me through the wringer!  Reflux, problems with his airway, aspirating his feeds and choking, two full months of moderate to severe hearing loss...  That boy definitely gave me a run for my money!  But when we finally got his reflux under control, all of the other issues started fading away, and my super-happy, super-goofy, super-lovey Mama's boy emerged.

This little guy has brought me more joy, laughs, smiles, and love in the past year than I ever thought possible.  He's brought out a fierce "Mama love" inside of me that I haven't had for a while.  The kind of love that makes you sneak into the nursery to watch your baby sleep...  The kind of love that has your heart smiling when you hear his baby jabbers over the monitor...  The kind of love that has you scooping him up and showering him with Mama kisses just because you can't get enough of those cheeks...  The kind of love that has you taking thousands of photos and forcing your friends to look at each and every one of them while you give the play-by-play commentary of what was happening while they were being taken because you just know that everyone loves your baby as much as you do...  :-)  The kind of love that makes your heart ache at the thought of losing them...

One year ago today, God gave me a little Chunky Monkey.  One year ago today, I was changed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day "Thank You"

It's not very often that the father of your former foster child shows up on your doorstep with flowers, but when I opened my front door on Mother's Day that is exactly what I saw.  

Sunday nights are my usual "start nights" when it comes to keeping Monkey while his daddy is at work, so I was definitely expecting him...  Flowers, on the other hand, not so much.  :-)  I shouldn't have been surprised though.  Monkey's dad is a very polite, very respectful, very thoughtful guy.  The flowers and the "Thank you for being a mother to Monkey" were just the icing on my already awesome Mother's Day weekend "cake."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Shout-Out Sunday"

1)  My first pick of the week has to be Kylee's post entitled "Including Your Child(ren) - Did It Steal My Innocence?"  So many families considering foster care have concerns about exposing their children to situations and topics that are way beyond their years.  As a foster/adoptive sibling from the age of seven years old, Kylee does an amazing job addressing those concerns.  Love, love, LOVE this post!!!

2)  Pick number 2 is Rachel's post about "The Power of Words."  I think most parents have had experiences similar to hers this day with the screaming, embarrassing kids on a shopping trip.  I still vividly remember one particular shopping trip with Booger when he was pulling every obnoxious toddler trick in the book.  I wanted to crawl under a rock!  Rachel's post about the words of one particular woman made my day, just as I'm sure they made hers.

3) Fantastic post by Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan!  "Where is the Mommy-War for the Motherless Child?" touches on the ridiculous amount of time and energy that is wasted by competent mothers fighting over and defending their parenting choices while the real battle should be fighting for the children who don't have mothers.  Awesome, awesome post that is causing quite an Internet stir and is drawing much-needed attention to a subject that is very near and dear to my heart...

So those are my top three "Shout-outs" for the week of May 6th - May 12th.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Foster Friday" Q & A - Through the Eyes of 1st Graders

When a person or couple makes the decision to become foster parents, that decision affects the entire family.  Biological children, extended family, grandparents, etc. are all brought into the emotionally exhausting world of foster care whether they want to be there or not.  I have been extremely fortunate that my family fully supports my decision to foster, and they have embraced each of my children as their own throughout this journey.

My niece and nephew were only three years old when I made the decision to foster, and they have been a huge part of my kids' lives.  At seven years old now, Buddy and Ka-Diva have spent half of their lives as "foster cousins."  I've never really sat down and talked to the kids at length about foster care or their thoughts and opinions on the subject, so I thought for our first "Foster Friday" Q&A I would "interview" the twins.  What I learned in that hour and a half long conversation just confirmed what I already knew about these kids.  They have huge hearts, caring spirits, and deep thoughts.  They also surprised me with some of their responses and made me rethink my own stand on certain subjects!  I hope you gain a little something from reading about foster care "Through the Eyes of 1st Graders."

When the twins learned that I was going to "interview" them, they were excited and a little nervous.  Christy and I assured them that there were no "right" or "wrong" answers and that I just wanted to know their opinions on things.  I started the interview by explaining what I was doing, and who I was doing it for.  I told them what a blog was, and I explained that people read my blog to learn about foster care.  I told them that many of my readers have kids of their own, and would love to know what other kids in foster families think about foster care and how they feel about it.  Buddy's response...  "Oh, we will be such a blessing to them!"  I know you will, kiddo!  :-)

The interview went a little something like this:

"Can you guys tell me what foster care is?"  (Ka-Diva approached the interview as she would the classroom, shooting her hand up in the air every time she wanted to answer a question.)

KD - "It's when moms and dads can't take good care of their babies, so we take care of them until they can."
Buddy - "Hey!  That was my answer!"

"So what do I do as a foster mom?"

Buddy - "You take care of them and do everything that a Mom does."

(The kids then proceeded to list every menial task and "Mom thing" they could think of...  ex. change diapers, feed them, hug them, kiss them, give them baths, wipe their nose, clip their fingernails, read to them, teach them things, etc.)

"Do you like being foster cousins?"  (Resounding "YES!!!")

"What is the very best thing about being a foster cousin?"

KD - "When we get to meet them!"
Buddy - "We get to help take care of cute babies and talk to them and play with them and help them when they need help."

"What is the hardest part about being a foster cousin?"

KD - "Diapers."  (always the practical one...)
Buddy - "Well, they seem like they're our family.  Then they have to leave and we don't get to see them, and they're not our family anymore.  We still have good memories, but I miss them a lot."
KD - "Yeah..."

"I think that's the hardest thing for me too."
"Do you think it's easier to talk about them, or not talk about them after they leave?"

KD - "Not talk about them..."  (Ka-Diva is kind of like her Aunt Tammy in that way.)
Buddy - "Talk about them, but I cry sometimes when I think about them...  I'm tearing up right now!"  (And he was!)

"It's okay to cry when we miss someone.  What are some good ways that we can remember them after they leave?"

KD - "Look at pictures."
Buddy - "Tell stories and good memories...  And look at their names on the wall!"  (When I decorated the nursery, Buddy had a great idea to put all of my kids' names on the wall so we could see the names and remember them.  To this day, they read the names on the wall every time they go in there, and usually tell a memory of each child.)

"Do any of my foster kids still feel like family even though they don't live here anymore?"
In unison - "Booger Bear!!!"
Buddy - "Is Booger our family?"

"Well, we get to see him all the time.  He comes to all of our birthday parties.  He came to Easter at Nana Nancy's.  Who all was at Nana Nancy's?"

KD - "Just family."

"Well then I guess Booger's definitely our family, huh?"

(Huge smiles and nods from both of them... :-)
Buddy - "And Monkey too!"

"You know, speaking of Monkey, I have a serious question for you guys...  Was it confusing for you when you heard Monkey call me 'Mama' instead of 'Mimi'?"  (I have always been "Mimi" before, never "Mama" until Monkey.)

KD - "Maybe a little..."

"Why is it confusing?"

Buddy - "Well, because your his foster mama.  Not his real mama...  It's not really confusing for us, but it might be confusing for Monkey."
KD - "Yeah...  He doesn't know you're not really his mama."
Buddy - "Yeah...  If he thinks you're his mama, he might be confused when he goes home and you're not there."
KD - "He's gonna think his mama left him."

(Wow!  All this time, I thought they were confused about it.  I had no idea they were more concerned that Monkey was going to be confused!)

"You know, I think you guys might be right about that.  I had never thought of it that way!  That's pretty smart!  So do you think I should just keep being "Mimi" with my new foster kids?"

KD - "Yes."
Buddy - "So you don't confuse them."

"But what happens if I get to adopt one of them, and they've always called me "Mimi?"

Buddy - "Well, then they can start calling you "Mama."  (like, duh!)

"Good plan.  I'll do that next time for sure."
"So I have another question that I've never asked you before...  I've only fostered babies and Angel, but if you could pick any age at all for me to foster, what would you pick?"

KD - "Teenagers!"

(That shocked me!)

"Teenagers?!?  Why is that?"

KD (practically rolling her eyes at me for asking a question with such an obvious answer) - "Because they can talk and have a conversation."
Buddy - "I want babies.  Just babies.  Or Booger's age..."
KD - "Yeah, babies or Booger's age or teenagers..."

"So Buddy, you want to be the oldest, and Ka-Diva, you want babies or teenagers...  So you wouldn't want anyone your own age?"

Both - "No."  (Guess that answered that!  I'm thinking we've got a couple of 7-year-olds who don't want competition. :-)

"Do you guys like it better when I have foster babies, or when I don't have foster babies?"

KD - "Kind of both sometimes...  When you don't have them, we get to go swimming and stuff more and don't have to worry about crying babies."  (Ka-Diva loves her Aunt Tammy, and gets a little jealous when she has to share me sometimes.)
Buddy - "I like when you have babies."

"Why is that?"

Buddy - "Because babies are cute, and I love to help them and take care of them.  And babies just love me!"  (A fact that no one will argue.  Babies flock to Buddy!)

"So if you guys were going to give advice to other kids in foster familes, what would you tell them?"

KD - "I'd say don't be mean.  I'd tell them to be nice and take care of them."
Buddy - "Yeah...  I'd say help them all the time."  (Buddy then went on a five minute "example" spree listing all sorts of random scenarios in which one might be able to help a foster child.  Ex. Reaching things that are too high, getting them out from under furniture if they get stuck, opening the art supply drawer for them, etc. :-)
KD - (Not wanting to be outdone, but always the "Little Mama") "Feed them, change their diaper, rock them to sleep..."

"Would you want to be a foster parent when you grow up?"  (Their answers were completely opposite from what I was anticipating...)

KD - "YES!  It's a nice thing to do!"
Buddy - "I don't think so...  It would be too hard.  I wouldn't want to let them go."

"So if a grown-up who had kids asked you whether or not you thought they should be a foster family, what would you tell them?"  (Again, their answers were completely different than I thought they would be!)

Buddy - "Oh, I'd say 'DO IT!"  It's GREAT!!!"  (This from the boy who had just said it was too hard...)
KD - "Don't do it.  You're kids might be jealous.  Wait until they're grown."  (This from the girl who just said that she would absolutely be a foster parent when she grows up...  She must only plan to foster before or after she has kids. :-)

"Is there anything else you want to add before we finish up?"

KD - "Nope."  (Well, okay then... ;-)
Buddy - "Yes.  I just want to say that I have a lot more confidence now."

(Thinking that he was just throwing a big word out there for the heck of it, I asked) - "You have more confidence?  How so?"

Buddy -  "Well, now that we've had so many babies, I really know how to take good care of them.  I have a lot more confidence."

"That's true, Buddy!  You have definitely learned how to take good care of babies!"

"Thank you, guys for answering all of these questions for me!  I know my readers are going to love your answers.  I think it will be a big help."

Buddy - "Oh, I'm sure it will!"  ;-)

And there you have it...  Foster care through the eyes of a couple of 1st graders...  I think I'll interview them again in a couple of years and see how their answers change as time goes on.   They definitely surprised me this time, and made me reconsider a few things.  I'm so proud of these kids!  :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Blaze of Glory: Mishaps of the Culinarily-Challenged

I am not exactly known for my culinary prowess.  I give myself some credit.  I'm not the worst cook in the world.  I'm fairly certain that I could boil water if given proper instructions, but I will admit that the extent of my culinary genius tends to be along the lines of EZ Mac-n-Cheese with cut up hot dogs.  For the most part, if there are more than five ingredients or spices of any kind, I will probably screw it up.  I know this about myself.  I'll own it.  In fact, I'll even throw out a few examples of my culinary mishaps on the World Wide Web for all to see!  :-)

My first clue that I should probably not be let loose in a kitchen came one evening when I had the oh-so-brilliant idea to make myself some S'mores.  I had all of the ingredients, and they were calling my name!

This is what I wanted...

What I ended up with was something akin to a charred heap of burning rubble.  Apparently graham crackers catch on fire in the microwave.  Who knew?!?

After my microwave went down in a blaze of glory along with my S'mores, I was at a complete loss as to how I was going to eat.  I ended up doing what anyone would do in that situation.  I called my Mommy.  And darned if she didn't laugh at me when I asked her how on earth a person was supposed to cook hotdogs without a microwave!  Who knew there were so many different ways to cook a hotdog?!?

After I mastered the cooking of the hotdog, I must have mistakenly determined that I was a whiz in the kitchen because I just knew that I could tackle entire meals by myself.  I even decided that I would face my fears about raw meat head-on and cook chicken and use ground hamburger!  I sat down one Saturday afternoon and spent the next four hours creating a menu for the week.  It was a thing of beauty!  I have a slightly disturbing love of lists, so I was immediately digging this whole "cooking" thing even though I had yet to actually cook.

One trip to the grocery store later, having purchased items that were completely foreign to me like "EVOO" and bay leaves, I decided to hit the ground running and cook my first real "meal."  Lemon pepper chicken, steamed asparagus, and wild rice with waldorf salad for dessert... That first real "meal" turned out to be my last.  Apparently there is a timing issue that needs to be addressed when cooking several dishes for one meal. I ended up with rubber chicken, soggy rice, crunchy asparagus, and an apple for dessert.  Twelve years later, I have yet to muster the courage to attempt another full-fledged "meal."  Casseroles all the way for this single foster mama!

Some people might wonder why I choose to only foster infants.  One might assume it is because infants don't have nearly the amount of emotional problems that older children in foster care possess.  However, for me, one of the major deciding factors was the whole "you have to feed them" thing, and the thought of having to prepare actual meals with a variety of food groups scared the bejeezers out of me.  Give me an infant on bottles and baby food or toddlers who love Gerber meals and fruit any day!  That, I can manage.  I just really hope that when I finally am able to adopt, my kids enjoy a good ole casserole.  'Cause that's what they're going to get.  :-)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Guest Post at "Attempting Agape"

Today, I contributed to the Mother's Day Series over at "Attempting Agape."

"For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom. I always dreamed of long roadtrips in an RV with my husband and gaggle of kids (five kids, to be exact) while I homeschooled and traveled the country with my family. It turned out, God had a different plan for me when at the age of thirty, I ended up having a hysterectomy 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 going to be a mother. I just had no idea how it was going to happen..."
 Follow this link to check out the remainder of my post about how a hysterectomy at 30-years-old was the best thing that ever happened to me, and take a look around this single foster mama's blog.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Shout-out Sunday"

I am a total blog nerd.  Not only do I love to write, but I love to stalk read other bloggers as well.  Over the past few years, I have met some amazing women throughout Blogland who inspire me, who write about their foster/adopt journeys, who make me cry, and who make me laugh so hard that I know I can't read their posts while drinking my Diet Coke for fear of shooting it out of my nose...  So I decided to start a new weekly segment entitled "Shout-out Sundays" where I highlight a few blogs or specific posts that stood out to me throughout the week.  These ladies are awesome!  And I'd love to share my Blogland friends with you.  :-)

1)  My first pick of the week has to be this new blogger.  Quite honestly, she is the reason I decided to start this new segment!  Casey is an experienced single foster mom who just recently started blogging about her experiences over at A Single Foster Mom's Diary.  (And by recently, I mean last month!)  She sucked me in, and I am so happy that I've been able to follow her journey from the beginning.  She recently gave into me hounding her agreed to be a part of the "Foster Fridays" panel as well, and I can't wait to get to know her better!  Definitely go check her out.  You won't be disappointed.  :-)

2)  I found my second pick of the week after this week's "Foster Fridays" guest post by Andrea.  Foster Mom - R over at Love's a State of Mind wrote this post on the same topic (How Foster Care Has Changed Me), and I had to share.  She included a great mixture of serious changes as well as had me cracking up because some of her "positive" changes included things that might seem silly to some, but were so true for me as another foster parent (like color coding children and developing an immunity to bodily fluids :-). 

And last, but not least...

3)  This post by Mama Foster definitely touched a nerve with me this week.  It's about that common phrase that all foster and adoptive parents of foster children seem to be forced to use on a regular basis...  "I don't know..."  It's a difficult thing to not be a part of the early years of your child's life.  Having to answer "I don't know" to questions that most children commonly ask is heartbreaking.  It is exactly why I try so hard to take tons of photos of my kids, to send photos and baby books to their birthparents while they are in my care, and to document every little milestone.  Because while I might have to answer "I don't know," I'm hopeful that their birthfamilies won't have to.

So those are my "Shout-outs" for the week!  I hope you'll take a few minutes to check them out, and look around.  Stay tuned next Sunday for another installment of "Shout-out Sundays."  :-)

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Foster Friday" Guest Post: How Foster Care Has Changed Me

A Guest Post By:
Andrea from "Live with Laughter"

"How Foster Care Has Changed Me"

This is such a loaded topic.  We became foster parents nearly three years ago.  We have three wonderful sons, but I dreamed in purple and bows.  We decided to take the training to become foster parents.  After a few trainings and our home study, we got our first foster placement.  We didn't even have our license in our hands yet.  Despite being told we only wanted a girl, the van door slid open to reveal a baby boy.  Right then, I was changed.

Our sweet J came into our home at twelve weeks old.  He had a head full of black hair that I didn't know how to care for properly.  The first major change occurred when I had to question a stranger in the hair care aisle at Walmart.  Never would I have exited my nicely decorated comfort zone to speak to strangers.  Thankfully, she did not think I was insane and took the time to tell me how to care for him.  Our sweet J drooled like a faucet.  He babbled and had a giggle that sounded like a car trying to start.  I loved that little boy.  I am still in awe that my heart swelled to care for J as if he were my own.

There are other things that have changed.  I am a much more flexible person than I used to be.  Now, there are those who will still claim that I'm as flexible as wood board.  However, between doctor appointments, therapies, trainings, and the unknown, I have become much more willing to go with the flow of life.

We are on our fourth and fifth placement, and I am much more vocal for my kids now.  I will call and call and call.  I will hunt down social workers, guardian ad litems, and CASA workers.  I am committed to being an advocate for my kids.

Another change is that I am surrounded by people that I would have never invited into my life.  I try very hard to get to know my children's biological families.  I have to put my feelings aside and do what is best for my kids.

On the other side of that coin, I have had amazing people enter my life that I would have never found without being a part of the system.  Foster parents are a unique breed of humans.  We have to open out lives and hearts to children who are hurt and broken.  We have to love and care for them, and provide them with life skills and courage.  We then have to say goodbye.  No one other than another foster parent can understand what it takes to do that and then open your home and heart to another little soul.  I am so very thankful for the foster parents in my life.

There has been anxiety, tears, fear, heartache, indecision, and sorrow.  There has also been smiles, giggles, and a love like I never knew.  I have watched my three boys love and accept the little people in their lives.  I've seen my husband fall to the floor with five kids piled on him.

I always say that I truly wish foster care was not needed, that families could love and care for their own children.  That is not the case.  So since there is a need for the system, I'm happy that I get to be a part of it.

I have changed.  My calendar is overflowing.  My minivan and home are at capacity.  I have been down the tunnel of anxiety and nearly let fear overcome me, yet emerged stronger than ever.  My heart is fuller than I ever thought possible.  Most importantly, my family has expanded beyond the borders of birth and grown in a way I never expected!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

When You Work for a Not-for-Profit...

I pay bills for a living.  Not exactly an overly-exciting occupation, but for the most part, it pays my bills, so I'll go with it.  ;-)  I've been working for a not-for-profit blood bank for nearly ten years now, and as time has passed it has become increasingly clear that the mentality of a not-for-profit organization is very, very different from that of a corporation.

My first clue that something was amiss was when I saw this expandable sorting folder being used by my co-worker.  Yes, this is the actual folder.  Note the use of stickers and handwritten letters to replace the tabs that had fallen off of the folder.  I laughed and asked my friend, "Why don't you just order a new one?"  Her response...  "No need to do that...  This one's still good!"  Clearly her 25 years of service to this particular organization has skewed her judgement as to what constitutes "good."  :-)

Add that "reconstructed" expanding folder to this old beauty, and you'll see just how far a good old not-for-profit will go in order to make the most of its equipment and supplies.  This is the actual copy machine that we use in our department.  That sign says, "To Make Copy, Gently Press Green Button and Move in a Counter-Clockwise Motion.  (No, really...  We're not kidding.)"  I am fairly certain this machine is older than I am, but as my friend says, "It's still good!"  It's a good thing too, because I don't believe they make the parts to fix it anymore.

About three years into my tenure here at the blood center, I got up the nerve to ask my boss if we could get electric staplers.  We each go through a good 500 staples a day, and after three years of manually stapling everything, we were starting to show signs of carpal tunal.  I wrote about my love of my new, rechargeable, battery-operated stapler once.  It was touch and go there for a while.  I practically had to write a formal proposal justifying the purchase of said stapler, but I think my employer's fear of losing the only people who paid the bills to weeks of surgical recoveries and medical leave won out.  The awesome staplers were purchased!  However we did receive strict instructions that these "were to last!"  :-)

Another sure sign that you work for a not-for-profit is the severe shortage of bonuses or perks of any kind.  When we are lucky enough to get a little something, most of my co-workers are easily appeased.  I remember the first time I witnessed the mass chaos caused by the word "FREE!"  When the sentence, "Free pencils in the breakroom!" came over the intercom one morning, the scene that played out before me was something akin to the Running of the Bulls.  Co-workers raced towards those free pencils like seagulls to potato chips, like vultures to roadkill, like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday...  I stood, my back pressed closely to the wall, and prayed that I would make it out alive.

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, we received an email from upper management informing us that all departments who participated in an upcoming survey would receive a pizza party.  All I saw was a photograph of moldy pizza.  My co-workers, on the other hand, saw "OMG!  FREE FOOD!!!"  Over the course of the next two weeks, I was hounded relentlessly by my peers.  "Have you taken your survey?"  "You've got to take your survey!"  "Hey, take your survey!"  I was afraid of a public flogging if I neglected my survey-taking duty, so I took the darn thing.  Ironically, the survey ended up being about company morale and ways to improve it.  I doubt they appreciated my smart@ss response of "Well, apparently the promise of moldy pizza works wonders around here!"

Yep, the mentality of a not-for-profit organization is quite different from that of corporation.  I am quite pleased to say that after 10 years working here, I have held strong to my beliefs and have not been permanently warped into thinking that duct tape will make my desk chair "like new again!"  My co-workers and their crazy antics just crack me up, and I am so happy that I have managed to maintain my dignit...  Hang on a sec...  They're making an announcement...


Gotta go...

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