Monday, December 31, 2012

tap the breaks, please

It's coming.  The day they will leave our house is coming and I can't do anything about it to push it back.  Yes, it is still foster care, and still ANYTHING can happen.  But according to CPS, the day is coming soon....possibly January, which I'm telling myself DOES NOT start tomorrow. 

So after their court date, they had what is called a permanancy conference.  In a nutshell, at the conference, we were informed that mom is doing very well (according to the state, who happens to have very different standards than we do) and that they will look at returning the kids home with her after the holidays, sometime in January.  Wow - it's so hard to even type that.  It just makes is so much more real, as I just try not to think about it most of the time.

We have known from day 1 that this was coming, but now that it's here, I just want to slow down time.  I haven't taken down "Christmas" yet at our house because maybe that means "the holidays" aren't over yet.  (and maybe partly because we just got back in town from Houston on Saturday...but the thought has crossed my mind that if I just leave them up, I can prevent them from leaving)  But I just have to keep reminding myself that no matter how much time or effort we put into these kids, we are not the ones that will save them, or protect them.  God is their only hope.  And my presence does not bring significance, only God's.  Our sermon yesterday spoke on Haggai 2, where God's people were rebuilding the temple and were discouraged by how it was no comparison to the original.  And God reminded them that it didn't matter how it looked or how much gold or silver it had.  What mattered was His presence and the fact that He was with them.  Dave and I can provide these kids things like new clothes, a nice house, healthy food, cool toys, etc.  But all that stuff doesn't matter.  God is what matters and what He give us matters - salvation.  And just because they leave this house, it doesn't mean God leaves their lives.  God is with them, just like He was in the new temple.

v.6-9: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth the sea and the dry land.  I will shake all the nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty.  'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the Lord Almighty. 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty. "

Another thing Haggai told them was that they didn't need to sugar coat their disappointment or hide their sadness and mourning of the old temple.  I think we do that all the time.  We try to turn a bad situation good, or we look at "the bright side" of things.  Not that that's a bad thing, but sometimes I think it's okay to recognize our crappy situations or whatever life throws at us.  I think it makes us focus more on the eternal and what God has done for us.  One thing I have learned about being a foster parent is that it truly is crappy.  I don't know why anyone would sign up for this.  The state says "here, take these kids, love them, keep them save and healthy (oh and you and your house have to pass multiple inspections in order to take these kids), and we'll take them back when their bio family is doing what they are supposed to, or wait, maybe just showing an interest in what they are supposed to be doing."  It's so insanely crazy.  We are going to be left sad and alone and worried for these kids.  There's not a whole lot of "brightness" to this situation.  I am not ready for this.  I'm not ready to let them go and maybe never see them again.  I'm sure you never can be "ready," no matter how hard of a road it's been...and trust me, it's been hard.  But man will we miss them.  I can't type all the things we will miss about them...as I'm sitting in Starbucks and don't want people to stare at my weeping.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not one of those people that "could never do this, because it would hurt too much when they left."  I guess since we are doing this, the whole sending them home thing will be cake though, right??  I think I will start anwering the question, "so will it be hard to send them home?" with a "nah, piece of cake."  No offense if you've ever said or thought that...I'm just trying to look at the "bright side."  :)  I know most people cannot even relate to what we are doing and sometimes you just don't know what to say...I actually love talking about it and love that we do this...most of the time anyways...so I'm glad you are at least asking!  But yes, it will be hard....it will be more than hard.  It will be excrutiating, maybe the hardest thing I've ever done.  But that doesn't mean we won't do it again, and again, and again.  Because I don't think God calls us to do things that are always easy.  I think He calls us to do things that glorify Him, and I just pray and hope that we have brought glory to Him in caring for these kids.
  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Update-ish

Hi!  I've been getting a lot of questions about how court went...which is great because that means 1 - you read my last blog (thank you!) and 2 - you probably said a prayer for the kiddos (thank you!!).  So...I'm updating you to tell you we don't have an update yet :(  We (Dave) had originally planned on going to court (which is allowed, but not required), but were discouraged from going from both their CPS caseworker and ours.  Now that we haven't heard anything, I think if we had to do it over again we would probably go because I'm very curious as to what all was said.  But oh well...we'll learn from this!  I also learned that CPS caseworkers generally always discourage foster parents from going to court cases...because let's be honest, we're just the babysitters, right??  He did however encourage us to go to their permanancy conference, which from what I understand, is more informal and more of a meeting where everyone gets to participate - so Dave could give input if needed.  He said that would be happening soon, but did not give us a date.  He (and by 'he' I'm referring to their CPS caseworker) said that this hearing was really just to talk about birth mom's progress and not to talk about a return yet, or what that would look like.  He did tell Dave at their last visit that he probably wouldn't recommend return until at least February...which we were very relieved to hear.  It also means that it APPEARS that we will have a kid-filled Christmas - yay!  But again...it's foster care, so you should probably just delete that sentence from your memory because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN :)  So...I did email OUR caseworker and asked her to get a report for us, but that has not been sent to us yet.  If we get that and there is anything to update about, I will certainly let everyone know!!  Thanks so much for caring and for praying and for asking....I really appreciate it!

Also - who told brother that I wrote a blog about her hair getting easier??  Because here is what her hair looked like when I picked them up from daycare the day I wrote that post and according to sister, brother was the culprit:
in case you can't tell, that is sand-like
 dirt and grass all up in there
So...our past 2 evenings have been all about taking out that style, washing, rewashing, parting, and doing a new style.  I had to know this was coming some day - what little kids don't play in dirt??

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Birthday parties, hair, growth, and prayers

I know, this is a super random blog title, but it's what has been going on in our house the past few months.  We celebrated both birthdays since my last post - sister's was in October and brother's was just yesterday.  I'm glad that they are finally different ages again.  It was really weird answering the question "How old are they?" during that 2 month period when they were both 3.  We did park birthday parties for both (only in Texas can you do a December birthday party at the park), and I think they both really enjoyed it.  I did mostly fight the "urge" to go all out and do a cute, themed birthday party....even though he did request a Spider-Man party so that included Spider-Man-ish cupcakes and some Spider-Man napkins from Party City.  The one thing that took a little bit of time was I did make a "Happy Birthday ____" banner for each of them.  And we didn't even get to hang hers up at her party because we didn't get the pavilion that we were hoping to reserve and there was no where really to hang it.  Apparently I also only pick super windy days to have birthday parties, so even though we did hang up his birthday banner it was flapping all over the place and you couldn't really read it.  All this to say is I've now learned that our birthday parties from here on out will indeed have a theme - "less is more." (actually that's a name of a friend's blog...great name I might add!)

Ok, so on to "hair."  It is getting easier!!  No, I didn't say "easy."  I said "easier."  It still takes me a good 2 hours to just style the hair.  That doesn't include the time it takes to take the previous style out the night before.  So, it does take up a lot of our Saturdays (usually that 2 hours is spread out with a few breaks, because getting a 3 year old to sit still for 2 hours is no fun for anyone).  I am super thankful for 2 things when it comes to hair because without them, I would be lost - first is her daycare teacher who will do her hair when I just don't have the time (busy weekend, or on a weekday if her previous style is looking rough), and second is a blog that has saved her hairs life - www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com.  If anyone is doing chocolate hair, I definitely recommend this site, and from what I can tell from her followers, it's not just vanilla ladies out there following her.  She's pretty amazing when it comes to knowledge of how to care for and style "chocolate hair."  I usually stick to the basics and part her hair in sections, rubber band them, and then put twists in with clips at the end, but I have been getting a bit more adventurous in my styles.  For family pictures I just had to try something different, so I did flat rope twists, which probably mean nothing to most of you, but just think an easier version of cornrowing.  It turned out good enough to keep for family pictures, but it didn't last long.  The best part of that whole style was that at the visit that week, the mom told Dave that I would have to teach her how to do that style....what???  I may have finally earned some street cred, I dunno. 

The last 2 thoughts will have to be quick as I need to go wake the little ones up in about 5 minutes.  Growth - Dave and I love to sit and talk about how far they've come.  We got a date night the other night and it was so fun to talk about what they "knew" when they came, and what they know now.  It's just crazy amazing.  These kids have grown so much, physically, mentally, spiritually, socially.  It's so good to think about where they came from because then it makes whatever we are dealing with at the moment sooooo much LESS, because we can say "well at least they aren't doing ____ like they did when they first came."  And I'm not saying this to make us look awesome, because we're just not.  I think they would grow just as much anywhere else....well not anywhere obviously, but you know.  It just shows that they weren't getting all the basics that you truly need - love, conversation, routine, consequences, and most importantly Jesus.

Ok last and certainly not least - their court date is TODAY, so please pray!  From their caseworker's report, it seems that this one is maybe not as big as we had thought as far as discussing their return and what that's going to look like, but I'm still nervous and anxious to hear what goes on...and I understand that it's foster care and anything can happen.  I will write a quick update after today to let everyone know what did, or didn't, happen. 

Thanks for reading!!

Kristy 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Long overdue

Okay I first want to apologize...this post is way long overdue and people have been asking me to write another post for a LONG time now!  I haven't made a post in such a long time for several reasons - #1  BUSY and feeling in-over-my-head now that school has started for me and #2 - I honestly have struggled with what I would write about as our experience has been very challenging for me and #3 - just being lazy and avoiding something I know I should do.  Ok, so wow....where to start??

The last time I wrote, I think the kids had been with us for 2 weeks...well tomorrow will be 15 weeks, or 3 1/2 months.  Even as I sit here and think about what to say about them and us, I struggle.  Of course we love them and they have taught us so much, but it has not been easy.  So, I will just speak what's on my heart and hopefully you can get the picture. 

These kids are great, seriously...GREAT kids.  I can't imagine what they have been through...being yanked from their family, put in a stranger's home (who happens to not be the same color you are - so looks completely different, has COMPLETELY different routines, eats different things, etc.), and forced to adjust to a new way of living.  Seriously...can't even imagine.  Dave brought it to my attention for the first time a few weeks ago...our first memories were somewhere between 3 and 4 years old...maybe even closer to 5 with me.  Which means, they may not even remember us, specifically.  I do wonder if they will remember more vividly the details since it is related to a trauma in their life, but what exactly will they remember?  Our names?  What we look like?  The dogs (and ALL their licks!!)?  Our house?  Their rooms?  Timeouts spent in those rooms?  What it feels like to live in a (moderately) clean home, and wear clean clothes, and BE clean?  Certain foods (they LOVE to eat edamame...pretty sure they are not going to be eatin' edamame when they go home :) but who knows??)?  Church?  Praying before meals and before bedtime?  Acting out Bible stories on the felt board (thanks Jan!)?  Who God is?  Reading stories on the couch before bedtime?  There is a good chance they won't remember the details...but we do hope and pray that somewhere along the way we have taught them (really God has used us to teach them) some important ideas - how to be kind to each other,  how to love people (and animals), how to love and obey God, how to follow rules and accept consequences when you break them, and how to pop edamame beans out of the pod :)  It's just so weird and crazy and sad to think that we have no idea what all they will remember, if anything...and if I'm real honest, it adds to other things that make it hard to "finish strong" since we are pretty sure they are going home, possibly soon-ish. 

Ok, back to my first thought (this is what happens when you don't write anything in 3 months) - these kids are GREAT and have been a HUGE blessing in our lives.  However...they are still 2 and 3 (really almost 3 and 4).  And they are VERY strong willed children...her more so than him.  They have been very challenging at times to parent.  One of the hardest things for me is that I hear my friends, who have similar age kids, saying their kids are doing very similar things - so I proceed to treat them, and discipline them, the same as those kids who have experienced no trauma, had healthy pre-natal care, healthy births, nurturing first few years of life, etc.  And attached to that, and probably the bigger issue, I have the same expectations as a parent would have of their kids whom they've parented since day 1 of their life.  I went to a conference last Saturday that reminded me that these kids don't have all that.  Their brain responds differently and they act differently because of that.  I felt much like I do after going to an awesome training on Autism or how to be a better teacher - refreshed, rejuvenated, remembering why I started teaching in the first place, and ready to go back to my classroom and get started on all these new ideas (or remembering to implement ones I've already learned).  It was such a good refresher and a good reminder to give them more grace, more nurture, and more love. I feel in a way that I've failed these kids in some of those ways.  Not that they don't need structure and rules, and need to learn the VERY important concept of consequences and how to obey...but it's just finding that balance that sometimes I feel like I lost at some point along the way.  And maybe that's how it is with all parents - it's HARD.  And I blame pinterest and facebook and myself for making me think it was going to be anything but that.  I love my friends and their cute, silly, fun-having posts and pics with their kids, but man it is NOT all fun and games.  My good friend, and fellow foster mom, Rachel reminded me that I was crazy for ever thinking it was always going to be fun...I believe her exact words were, "WHAT??  Who ever told you that??  Cuz they are liars.  I certainly did not tell you that!!"  I'm thankful that I have friends who bring me back to reality and am even more thankful that I know and trust a God who doesn't promise "fun" or "happiness" but DOES promise struggles, blessings (which could be your struggles), growth, eternal riches, and the glorifying of HIS name, not mine. 

All this to say - it hasn't been easy, and God is certainly changing and growing me (which is probably never easy), but it has been wonderful to serve God through these kids and I pray that in the end, God will be proud of how we loved them and how we taught them about who He is and how much He loves them...which is far greater than any amount of love that I can show them, and that is why I will trust Him when they go home...because I know that He loves them and can protect them FAR greater than I can.

So here's an attempt hit the highlights of the past 3 months...
  • summer was great...maybe I'm just saying that now that I've been in school for a while and it's just much more to try to handle...but I had "fun" staying home with them - particularly doing things like riding the DART train to the zoo, traveling to Houston to visit my family, swimming, playdates, staying in pajamas until noon, and being able to workout (we found out that it's FREE for us to take them to the gym and have them play while we workout...score!) whenever I wanted.  
  • working and being a mom is hard...thankfully, I have a WONDERFULLY HELPFUL husband who knows how to help and knows what I need...I think things will get easier once we hire a cleaning lady (hun, by the way, I think we should hire a cleaning lady, no?) 
  • daycare = sick kids...they have had a constant stream of snot for the 6 weeks they have been in daycare; they have taken 3 of my 5 sick days that I'm allotted each year as a teacher...1 of which is today...after being on antibiotics for strep throat for 8 days, the daycare called this morning to say she has a fever :(  it's been "fun" to figure out sick kids when working...although I will say having 1 sick one at home is wayyyyyy easier than 2 sick ones
  • visits are going pretty well...we have come to the conclusion that their CPS caseworker is "seeing rainbows" but we are new to this so we also know that we have no idea how it all works and that anything can happen at any time...their next court date is early December and "if mom keeps it up, they see it moving pretty quickly"
  • I get to plan my first kid birthday party!!  Little mamma's birthday is October 15. **warning for those that are coming - there will be no frills or thrills - we are keeping it low key...as much "fun" as it would be to compete with the pinterest and facebook moms in the "who can throw the most elaborate, fun, cute, DIY toddler birthday party" contest...I know with me working, it would just completely stress me out and I'd be up all night the night before.  So...we are having it a park and we will eat and play - on the playground equipment that is already there and is free to use and that the kids love to play on (but WHY do I still have this itch to create fun little kid birthday party activities and games??  okay, maybe there will be ONE organized game....and WHY am I still searching pinterest for cute party favors that will take hours to make and minutes to be tossed in the trash??  THAT'S CRAZY, right??)
  • big brother's favorite song right now is one he learned at church (don't even know the name of it, but you all know how it goes) - "my God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY there's nothing my God cannot do" - love that he will just break out singing this song at any moment
  • big brother has also started pee wee soccer - so cute!  he is no doubt an athlete and he really enjoys it (although we've only made it 1 out of the 2 weeks)...Dave and I also are the "coaches" so that has been "fun" (again, for the 1 week we have done it); basketball starts in December, and she will be 3, so they could both do that if they wanted
  • we're thinking about doing Halloween with some friends who have 2 2-year olds and they will all be characters of the Backyardigans...so cute!  My dogs have already thanked the kids for being here and saving them from having to be dressed up to fulfill a mommy itch :)  But don't you worry Rox and Clark...I haven't forgotten about you (even though it may seem like that with 0 trips to the dog park and only a handful of walks since June 20)...there WILL be dog costumes too!!!
     Well, I think nap time is about over and we need to go pick up brother from daycare.  My goal for the rest of the day is to keep them "separated" so that he doesn't get whatever she has - this should be "FUN"!!!

Also - a friend shared this blog post with me a while back and although I can't relate to everything....it gives a good "picture" of what I am feeling most of the time and she says it way better than I ever could.  So...if you've got another couple of minutes please check out this, as it gives a little more light on what it's like here in the Blevins' home these days:

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/08/21/the-truth-about-adoption-one-year-later

Thanks for reading and I do intend to post more often than every 3 months :)

Kristy

Thursday, June 28, 2012

and so it begins...

Well it took 2 weeks to the day to get our first placement.  We are now caring for a 3 1/2 year old boy and his 2 1/2 year old sister (who we will call Jr and Sissy for privacy issues).  And it has been quite a week!  First, let me say that we are overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the support we have received from our church, friends, and family.  We are involved in the Orphan Care Ministry at our church and we have had people we don't even know just drop things off on our doorstep, packages mailed to the kids....it has been truly amazing to see God work through everyone that has supported us.  We have people praying for us, meals being brought to us, and everything the kids could possibly need and more being donated...we are so blessed to have such a great community!!  We have truly experienced God taking care of our every need!

Ok, so on to the kids...

They are precious.  It's probably a lot easier for me to say that right now as they are both napping....as opposed to being woken up in the middle of the night to un-consolable crying :)  Just kidding, they are truly wonderful.  I can't even imagine how hard it is to go through what they have gone through.  Then to be put into a house with a "schedule" and being told to follow a "routine," with things like "rest time" and "eating at the table."  They have really done a great job adjusting to structure...lucky (or maybe un-lucky) for them they were placed in the house of a Kindergarten teacher, with maybe too much structure :)  And it's not just the kids that are doing the adjusting around here...the adults and doggies are adjusting right along with them!  We have had our "what in the world have we done??" moments, and judging by these pictures, so have the dogs...

Clark? Are you still alive??



I know Rox, me too...me too

Here are just a few of the highlights, and "low-lights," of our week (FYI it is now bedtime...I'm also adjusting to my snipits of peace and quiet where I can do things like write a blog...so this could be brief):

HIGHLIGHTS:
1.  the best part of my day is when Dave gets home from work and both kids drop whatever they are doing and run (and jump) into his arms...this is pure awesomeness for so many reasons, but mainly I'm just so happy that they have an adult male in their life that loves them and cares for them the way he does
2.  my new nickname, KiKi...which was given on Day 2 when I was tired of being "HEY!" because they couldn't say "Kristy"...also, Jr. pronounces his /k/'s as /t/'s and so it's "TeeTee" to him; Dave once tried to call me "TeeTee in front of him, to which Jr. yelled "NO! it's TEE-TEE!!"  Lol....love it
3.  seeing how much they have learned, or picked up on, in just 1 week...they are learning how to count, name colors, sing kid songs, say prayers, share their toys, LISTEN and obey "TeeTee"....they are really picking up quickly for only being here a week....even their CPS case manager commented on that today
4.  being able to stay home with them for 2 weeks and build a strong bond and relationship to them...and have play dates with friends...and I finally have an excuse to try all the pinterest "activities" that are pinned on my "kids" board :)
5.  exposing them to new foods, places, people who care about them, and a different of living (it's just crazy what kinds of food they don't even know the name of)
6.  seeing their great big smiles and knowing there is a fun, loving, playful attitude inside both of them, even though sometimes they have to be too tough to show us that side of them
7.  realizing that even though they can be tough to handle at times, i am loving them more and more each day
8.  getting to parent with my wonderful husband...it is truly a blast, and i don't know how people do it alone
9.  even though we haven't done a lot of this yet because we truly are just trying to survive this adjustment period, I know the best part of this all will be teaching them about Jesus and how much God loves them...they already show excitement and interest in praying as they are beginning to repeat our prayers (literally, as we are saying them) that we say at meal time and bedtime

I know I could think of more, but after going to bed last night at 4AM due to a trip to the ER (Jr had an asthma attack) and the stress of their first "visit day" today, my mind is a little shot.  So, briefly, here is what is the not-so-fun side of fostering...some of which we knew to expect, but most not the extent that we have discovered:

LOWLIGHTS:
1.  speaking of visit day - visit day really stinks; I took them for the first time today, and it is nothing but uncomfortable, awkward, and awful.  The kids have no idea what is going on and why they got to see their mom, aunt, and grandma for 1 hour today, and why they can't go back home after this visit.  The mom needs someone to blame right now, so of course that is me right now and makes for a super uncomfortable time of dropping off and picking up the kids at the CPS office.  Visit day really just magnifies all the brokenness that is foster care, and it ain't at all pretty.  FYI, as far as we know these kids will see their mom once a week and their plan is reunification - which is usually the plan for kids entering the system...they have a court date set for Monday, so we may know more of how it looks after that...but then again, probably not.
2.  bedtime - i'm sure this is a struggle for most parents, but it's so hard to find the balance between establishing boundaries or rules and comforting them when they truly are just missing their home in this situation (Jr has a pretty hard time being alone at night, or anytime really)
3.  my nickname Kiki - when Sissy says it 57 times in 1 minute
4.  introducing structure to kids who have had zero structure....this can be very draining
5.  trying to set up doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and figuring out daycare all in 2 weeks...ahhhh! 
6. hopefully this will turn into a highlight, but for now - learning how to take care of their skin, but more importantly and wayyyyy more stresseful HER hair.  my heart starts beating a little faster when we walk by an African American woman when we are out in public...I just want to tell her - "I promise I'm trying!!  I've read blogs and watched YouTube videos....I'll get better!!"

Mainly we just feel really blessed to be able to parent these kids for however long God would have us do that.  We know we have a lot to learn, and I'm so thankful for great friends who have walked this road before us and can give us support and advice when we need it.  I wonder how many times I will say this throughout this blog, but we could not do this without our community supporting us and just showing up.  God is so good, and it's been an amazing experience so far.

Love you guys!
Kristy

Thursday, June 7, 2012

OPEN!!


Well we are officially open!!  We went and signed the final document on Monday afternoon and they even gave us an official plaque to hang on the wall.  She said it takes about a day for the paperwork to go through, so yesterday was our first official day to be on "the list"....which also happened to be our anniversary.  So that was definitely a special anniversary  for us!  I've had a ton of fun in our first 3 years of marriage, and I'm excited to see what God has in store for us next!

So what is next?  More waiting...yay!  The average time for families to get a call is 2-3 weeks, but really there is no telling.  In the meantime, I am enjoying being off for a few weeks before I start working HEROES camp that I work at in the summer.  We are also working on getting that 2nd room ready.  It is all painted and we are just working on filling it and decorating, so I will post pictures when it's ready.  If any one knows of a place where I can get yellow/grey crib bedding, let me know :)  My cousin was super generous in donating her crib, rocker, high chair, and tons of other things!  We are so thankful for her and her desire to care for orphans by supporting us...as well as others who have generously donated their things as well!  Again, we could not to this without our community...we are so blessed!

So I guess my next post could be after we have kids in our home...kinda crazy!  Talk to y'all soon!

Kristy

Monday, June 4, 2012

saying goodbye is hard

Last week was tough.  For those that don't know, I lost both of my grandparents within 4 days of each other.  As hard as this sounds, it was actually a really good thing...for them.  I miss them so incredibly much, but I'm so, so happy for them.  They get to hang out with Jesus with no more pain and suffering.  Actually they both lived very long, relatively healthy lives with little suffering up until the last couple of years...which I'm so thankful for.  My grandmother was 94 and my grandfather was 97.  I know they were ready to go, and it really couldn't have happened in a better way.  My grandmother went first, and it was after spending a few days with all 4 of her daughters...I definitely think having them there had something to do with her being "ready."  She went very quickly and peacefully...such a blessing!  My grandfather took a bad fall a few days before she died, and that was really hard on his body.  So after my grandmother died, I think that was definitely his cue that it was okay for him to go too.  He wasn't doing well and the hospice nurses said he only had a few days, so I decided to go say goodbye.  That was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I'm thankful that I was able to do it, but man it was tough.  Even knowing where he was going, and how much I knew he was ready to go...you just can't ever prepare or be ready for losing someone that you love.  The hardest part is when I think about how we won't be going to visit them in Austin anymore, no more games of 42 (which my grandfather taught me and my brother when we were young),  no more calendars to give as Christmas presents (it became a tradition for me to make a calendar of the grand kids/great-grand kids each year), and just knowing that they aren't there if I want to pick up the phone and talk to them.  But, that is just me being selfish...wanting them here when they are in a better place.  A place where I can't wait to get to, and I can't wait to see them there.  I hope that I can do as good of a job following Christ here on Earth as they did.  They were missionaries in Brazil, and their heart for mission work was played out  in their lives for sure.  I hope that I can continue that legacy, as we enter in the mission work of foster care.  I wish they were here to see us do that, and help us along the way, and meet "our" kids, but I can't wait to talk about it with them some day.  They also gave me a great example of how to be a teammate to my husband.  They were married 71 years!  I doubt that Dave and I will make it that long (that would mean that I would have to live to be 101 and Dave 107...I don't think either of us wish to live that long!!), but I know that we can be just as committed to our marriage as they were.  I'm sure it was not always easy, but I could always see their love and commitment to being each other's helper and teammate...even up until their last months, and I'm sure days, before they died.  I feel so blessed to have such a great example to follow.  Thanks Vovo and Vava for living out your love of God and love for each other!


I know I will have many more "goodbyes" to say with foster care.  I know it's going to be tough.  The hard part with saying goodbye to the kids will be not knowing what exactly they are going home to and if their parents have really changed.  It makes it so much easier to say goodbye when I know my grandparents are in Heaven, walking with Jesus.  Giving kids back to their bio families may, or may not, be a better place for them...and most likely the latter will be true, unfortunately.  But our hope is that God will have used us to plant a seed in them  and that they will some day come to know Christ and hope for a time when we no longer have to deal with such a sinful, fallen place that can cause even our own parents to not love us enough to take care of us.  My heart breaks for these kids and parents and I know there is no other reason that their situation is what it is other than this - we live in a fallen world.  Although I miss my grandparents, I'm excited that they are no longer living in a place that is groaning for redemption. 

On a brighter note, I also wrapped up my last week of my 1st year as a special education teacher on Friday!  The last 2 weeks were rough, even just with school, but I'm happy to say that I made it through.  It was definitely a year of learning for me, but I'm excited to do it all over again in the fall. 

We ended the week yesterday by sorting shoes for our church's orphan care ministry = fun!  And then headed over to our last training before we are finally licensed tomorrow at noon = awesome, but getting really nervous now!! :)  I'll probably write a quick report on how that goes tomorrow and what exactly that means as far as when we could receive kiddos.  So talk to you again soon!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Still Waiting...

Well we are about 2 weeks past our "45 days" it would take for them to write our homestudy, and still nothing.  I decided I needed to start reaching out just to make sure we are still on their radar and that our file did not get lost in the merger transition.  So I emailed them Sunday night and a lady did write back Monday morning that she has our file and it is going through a "file audit" to make sure it has everything it needs, and then they will set up an appointment where we would be officially licensed and put on the open list.  She said she had hopes of getting that file audit done on Monday and calling me as soon as it's done to set up the appointment, but I've learned, not so quickly, that I should not count on that being true.  As my friends in foster care would say "welcome to foster care!"  :)  To give our agency a break though, I know they are swamped with the merger just happening May 1st.  Also - God definitely knew what He was doing (once again) when He had us wait until school was out to be on the open list.  School is killing me this week, and I cannot imagine taking in any kids before school gets out.  So, all that to say...sorry I haven't updated the blog in a long time, but there hasn't been a whole lot of updates going on.  However, I have been having fun getting the "kid rooms" ready and so with that, I'm going to follow suit as some of my other foster friends have done and make a list of "Top 10 Things To Do When You Are Waiting For Kids."  Some of these I stole from these said lists, but here it goes...

1.  get kid rooms ready...we have 2 rooms that we have been working on.  We are done with the first, and in the process of the 2nd.  The first is more of a "big kid" room, and the 2nd will be more of a "baby/toddler" room...which could be a 2nd big kid room depending on who we get!  Here are before/after pics of the 1st room, I will post pics of the 2nd room once it is finished:
Before
After
Here are some of my favorite parts of the room...
 
sign with fun lamp
chalkboard doors with "art table"

painted boards with clothespins for hanging pictures, school work, etc.

2.  put new plants in the backyard
monkey grass, the dogs has pretty much left these alone

some sort of cool purple plant...the dogs tend to leave plants alone have tiny leaves

palm tree - dogs have not left this little guy alone...he's looking kinda sad

3.  get haircut
4.  change oil in your car
5.  do respite care for foster friends
6.  buy kid food!! 
am planning on making some freezer meals, but we'll see if that actually happens...it's a good thought though :)

7.  give dogs a bath

not a fan of baths

also not a fan of baths...sorry doggies!




8.  PINTEREST projects!!! yay for pinterest!
coasters made from tiles, scrapbook paper, and photos (couldn't get the picture to turn, and i'm tired of messing with it)
this was my favorite...i sent some to my mom for Mother's Day


Crayon Art for the kids' room



This is all you need! (and a blowdryer)



this is actually not pinterest...the idea/technique came from my crafty cousin!


9.  get as much sleep as possible = sleeping in until 11:00 on saturdays :)
10.  take a vacation!!  (we haven't done this yet...thinking about taking a small trip somewhere soon)

(sorry for all the pictures being sideways and weirdly placed...i'm getting super frustrated trying to fix this, so I'm quitting!!)

I'll update the blog with pics of the finished 2nd room, and hopefully the next time we'll at least be on the open list!!

Kristy

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Post

Well it has been 4 weeks since our homestudy.  According to me, we could hear that we are on the open list any day now :)  Who knows, but really the lady that did our homestudy did say she would probably have it done in less than 45 days.  So...since this is day 28, we could have anywhere from 0-16 days.  In the meantime, we've been enjoying our last few weeks of our 2 person, 2 dog family.  I plan on writing a post sometime soon (I know I haven't been good about that lately though) about what exactly we've been up to. 

For now though, I've been meaning to post this "guest post" from my husband.  He didn't know it was a post when he wrote it, but he has agreed that I could put it on the blog.  Our pastor asked him a few weeks ago if we would speak at church about our foster care journey (ummm...yikes!!!), and he asked for Dave to email him "our story."  He let me read it and I just love it.  He did a great job, better than me, describing our story and why we are doing this.  So....here ya go!

"Good morning Neil,

Thanks for reaching out to us about sharing. God is doing some pretty cool things in our life. We are still not sure exactly what those things are, but we are excited and can't wait to see what happens next. I'll give you a description of our path over the last couple of years from my perspective, and then I'll include a blog post from my wife describing things from her perspective. You might want to grab a cup of coffee…

When Kristy and I first got married we (more me) really struggled with contentment. I'm a small business owner and I was doing "all the right things" but God was choosing not to bless us financially, at least not up to our expectations. I was frustrated; we were frustrated. We took the Crowne class with the Wantlands leading. That really helped me get out of the results business. I needed to do my part - work hard, serve God by serving my customers and employees, and let God worry about providing for us and determine our level of worldly success. Letting go has been a huge relief. Making it not about me has been freeing.

Kristy and I both love kids. Kristy is a special needs kindergarten teacher and I've always loved being involved. In high school I was a preschool Sunday school teacher and camp counselor, in college I participated in and eventually led an inner city ministry, after college I taught 4th grade Sunday school, was a camp counselor, and was 4 year old Sunday school teacher. I'm not trying to put my resume out there; I'm just trying to emphasize the point that I've been a dad in training for 20 years. I have been looking forward to being a dad for as long as I can remember. We decided in 2010 that we wanted to start a family. We stopped playing defense that summer and didn't get pregnant right away. We got out the charts and calendars that winter and tried in earnest for another 10 months or so and… nothing. For Kristy the monthly disappointment of not getting pregnant was excruciating at first. I was disappointed too, but I was out of the results business, so I was trying to figure out what it meant. What was God doing? I had some help.

When we first started trying, I was helping Matt lead a Genesis study. One of the things that really hit home in that study for me was the story of Lot. Lot was a righteous man who appeared to have no impact on his family or community. What impact were we having on our community? Not much. 

Then, when we started trying to get pregnant in earnest, I was going through the book of James in a Tuesday morning study with a group of guys (led by Matt). James 1:27 really stood out to me. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. What were we doing to serve widows and orphans? Not much. 

This led us to go to an adoption conference. We heard about international adoption and domestic infant adoption, and we also heard about a group of people who still make us a bit uncomfortable. People who were in such a bad situation that a teacher or neighbor or relative asked the state to get involved. So bad, that the state determined it was unsafe for them to live with their biological family. People who have experienced extreme trauma at an early age by the hands of those who should love them most. These people are foster kids. They need temporary parents and sometimes permanent parents. 

Being made aware of this need + recognizing that we need to be doing a better job of serving our community + knowing that we needed to be serving widows and orphans led us to our decision to be foster parents. We are extremely excited to welcome kids, who have been treated like trash in many cases, into our home, love them, and tell them about the infinite eternal value that our heavenly Father says that they have. How often do you get to invite a stranger into your home and tell them about Jesus every day? Awesome! We went from the sadness and despair of infertility to the unexpected joy and excitement of being able to serve God and impact our community through foster care.  It has taken us 5 month from the decision to get to where we are now. We have one step left, our home study write-up. That will be completed anywhere from 20 to 35 days from now at which time we will be officially licensed and open for kids. We are praying for a sibling group (2 or 3) under 10 for our first placement, but we are open to whatever God has in store for us. We are also open to either being temporary or permanent parents for any placement. Kristy and I feel like it might be better for us to share after we have kids in our home since our story with be much further along with that last BIG step, but we will submit to you on that one. 

That’s all I got - Dave"

FYI- they both agreed that we should probably wait to share until we have actually had foster kids :)  Which is A-Okay with me...speaking in front of an audience of adults makes me feel sweaty. 

Thanks again for reading!

Kristy

Saturday, March 31, 2012

39 days and counting...

Well a lot has actually happened in the last 2 weeks....I'm sorry that I'm just now getting around to putting it on the blog.  We found out on Friday, March 16th, our current agency (Kornerstone) is merging with another agency (ACH, formerly known as All Church Home).  Although this felt like a huge setback for us, it sounds like a great opportunity for our agency.  ACH is taking all of the family developers and staff (I think) along with the merge.  Which means all families should be able to stay with their current family developer and the location is actually going to stay the same.  "Kornerstone" will be able to operate as a satellite office of the new agency.  There are also tons more resources and support that ACH can offer their staff as well as their families.  The downside is that this meant that Kornerstone would now be overwhelmed with the task of getting all of the currently licensed families switched over to ACH...so home study updates, processing paperwork, transferring files, etc.  We felt like we would be put on the back burner as a family who isn't even licensed yet.  After speaking to the person in charge of home studies at our current agency, she basically said it's up to the new agency how and when they would like to proceed with us.  I had worked so hard to get all of our paperwork and inspections done quickly, and now it seemed like it would be months before we could even schedule our home study.  Once again, I found myself not trusting that God's plan and timing is perfect and that He is in control..and worrying that my timing was not going to work the way I had planned it to.  I think this is a lesson that I need to learn as soon as possible...which I think is a good lesson for everyone, but especially for someone walking into foster care.  As a foster parent, I don't think you are in control of a whole lot, other than providing care for the children, that specific day, hour, and minute.  You never know when they are coming or when they will leave.  Hearing from other foster parents, you can't even rely on the timing given by the judge at their hearings...something can always come up that extends or shortens their stay with us.  That's just part of it, and it's going to be tough to let go of that control...or I guess to never actually get that control.  LUCKILY, I know and believe that we have a God, who is the creator of the universe, that DOES have control and who knows what is best for us and for the kids.  And if I can keep that in the forefront of my mind, then I think I would worry a whole lot less about my timeline. 

Ok so...thanks to Lisa, the awesome lady who is in charge of home studies at Kornerstone, we were not put on the back burner, as we thought might happen.  She passed along our file to ACH and told them that our home study is "of great priority" to them.  Then, last Friday, March 23rd, a home study writer called me at 5:30 and said "how does your weekend look?"  What??  This weekend??  Ummm...great?!  Since I was hosting a baby shower at our house that Saturday, I scheduled us for Sunday, the 25th, at 1:00.  So, needless to say last week/weekend was quite busy preparing for a shower and home study all in the same weekend!  There were actually lots of pluses for having the home study right after a baby shower. 
1.  house is already clean
2.  I could leave out the fresh flowers in the cutely decorated vases with ribbon
3.  I could put out goodies that were leftover from the shower
4.  I got to give the home study writer this when she left....


perfect, right?? thanks Shelby for having a transportation themed nursery :)

So, there wasn't a whole lot that I had to do to get ready for the home study, besides make sure all of our meds were put back in the double-locked tackle box and our cleaning supplies put back in the locked cabinet in the garage.  I'm sure we will do a much better job of making sure those things get put back in their appropriate locked spaces when we have kids in the house :)  So here is what I put out for our home study interviewer that afternoon (notice the amazing table that is now complete...my husband rocks and making tables):

lemonade, scones, chocolate banana bread, cake, and candy

    So, how did it go?  It wasn't as painful as I thought it would be.  We didn't get asked the "how is your sex life question?"  which we were told to expect...ummm, awkward!!  Considering that Dave and I are both pretty quiet and don't really enjoy talking about ourselves a lot, I think we did really good.  It was just soooooo long!  She was here for 5 1/2 hours.  That included an interview with just me, an interview with just Dave, an interview with Dave and I, and a walk through to make sure our house was up to standards and ready for kids.  There were lots of questions about our families, our history, how we were raised, the roles we play in our marriage, and scenarios of "what would you do if your foster child did ___."  Or "how would you help your foster child deal with ___."  I think those were the toughest ones.  Because honestly I have no idea how to help a child through the loss that they have experienced.  One thing I think we both repeated often was "there is no way we are going to be able to relate to what these kids have been through."  We are so blessed to have been brought up in families that have a history of loving the Lord and providing their children with care and love.  These kids didn't get dealt those cards and now they have to figure out how to not only overcome that, but try to break that pattern in their family.  I can't even remember my answers to those types of questions...I'm sure they weren't good.  Basically I think we said you just listen to them, try to find some common ground, pray for them, and make them feel understood, loved, and most importantly help them to realize their value as a child of God, who was created in the image of Him.  We were also handed a sheet of "behaviors" and were asked to pick out which ones we would not be willing to accept into our home.  Dave was of course quick to answer "we'll take anyone."  I was not so quick and took a few minutes to actually read and think about them all.  The ones that scared me the most were "acts out sexually,"  "hurts animals," and "history of starting fires" (I know that sounds kinda silly, but thinking about our house burning down is scary to me...I'm sure that's pretty extreme).  However, in the end, we decided that because we are going to start with an age limit of up to 10, and with basic level of care kids, we probably would not be receiving kids with these severe behaviors, to start with.  And we decided that we have enough support to find help if/when we do receive kids with these behaviors.  That doesn't mean that we aren't nervous about it and we think we are just so awesome that we can handle anything.  It just means that we believe that God gave us the ability to care for these kids and that every single one of them were created in God's image and therefore holds infinite value, and should be treated as such.  So in the end, I think she liked us, and understood us as a family who is doing this to serve the Lord and are willing to go wherever God calls us to go in this ministry.

So...we are officially DONE!  Even with the merger happening, we have already filled out the necessary paperwork for the new agency.  Now the waiting begins.  The home study writer said she legally has 45 days to write it up, but that it would probably be sooner than that.  So, really it is probably going to be less than the 39 days she has left, but who knows.  After that, we will be called in to sign one final paper and we will be on the "open list" to receive kids.  Which means we could get a call the next day, the next week, again, who knows? (see what I mean about needing to quickly learn this "not in control" lesson??)

In the meantime, we are going to spend our time together, as a kid-less family, and hopefully work on some projects like painting/decorating the kid rooms.  As mentioned earlier, Dave did finish his first project - our kitchen table.  He really enjoyed it and is looking forward to starting his next project, which I think is a workbench, but says that will be easy.  I'm hoping the next big project will include a dresser for the "baby" room (I love giving hints to my husband through a blog).  He did such a great job with the table, I am confident that whatever he builds next will be equally impressive.  Here are better pictures of the completed table:

pre-paint/stain

all we need are chairs!

I also completed a mirror framing project that has been on my to-do list.  It was my first pinterest house project.  I think it turned out pretty well!

all you do is glue on these tiles you buy in sheets and...
whoalah!

Thanks again for everyone's support in your comments, prayers, thoughts, donations, and just being there for us!  We really appreciate it and couldn't do this without a community of support.

Love ya!!       

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Taste

We had the privilege of keeping our friends' 2 foster children for 4 days this past weekend/week.  It  gave us a taste of what it will be like to have little (or big ones) running around the house...and we LOVED it!  Although my friend was thanking us for keeping them, I think they did us the bigger favor.  As you know, my timeline of when we thought we'd  be open for kids continues to get pushed back.  This experience scratched my "foster care mommy" itch just perfectly enough to be content while we wait for God's perfect timing.  I think it will also allow me to better appreciate the time that Dave and I have before the craziness begins. 

I wish I could post pictures of the fun we had, but words will have to do.  I'll start with my "high/low."  These kids have a routine of telling their foster parents their high and low from each day...love it!  I think my greatest high was praying with these kids every night before they went to sleep.  We prayed for them, we prayed for their parents, we prayed that they would be reunited with their family, we prayed that they would love God and that they would share Jesus with their family.  How awesome is that??  What a blessing to be able to speak these words to them and to God!  Their foster parents have definitely done a great job sharing Jesus with them.  The older one has told her foster mom that when she grows up she is going to tell everyone about Jesus :)  I know I've said this before, but I can't think of a better blessing than to be able to be used by God to introduce Jesus to these kids.  I have a feeling this will always be my "high."

My "low" - hmmm.  It's really hard to think of one because it was really so much fun.  Granted I did spoil them more than I probably would if we had them long term.  But I wanted it to be more of a vacation for them.  It was also different because they weren't at their own house where they knew how to entertain themselves.  So I did a lot of "entertaining."  Ok so my low...this is going to sound super cheesy but it really was when we had to take them back.  Well maybe not right in that moment...it was nice to think of having the night to ourselves :)  But yesterday and today I've really been missing them.  I've been looking back at the pictures we took and wishing we had more time with them...crazy I know.  So this is not looking good, right?  If I feel this way after 4 days...how in the world am I going to deal with it when we have kids for weeks, months, or even a year!!  Even though it was a super tiny taste, I do feel like I know, or have an idea, of how it might feel.  No, I take that back...I probably still have no idea.  I can't even imagine.  Ugh...I have a feeling that this will definitely, always be my "low." 

For those that are curious, as I was, the dogs did PRETTY good.  They both got knocked down a few times (a little knocking around never hurt anyone, right??) but the older one was definitely more comfortable with them.  She could handle their "bounciness" a little better than the boy, who was eye level with them :)  The first minute or so of the greeting is when they were most bouncy and excited.  What was funny was that it was EVERY time the kids came or went anywhere.  So whether we left for 20 minutes or 4 hours, they got excited when they came back.  It also happened every day after nap time and ever morning when they came out of their room.  After that minute or so of excitement, they would calm down and be great with the kids.  They loved playing with them and were always curious about what they were up to.  The funniest was that Roxy was super protective of them...and in super protective, I mean she even felt like she had to protect them from Clark...poor Clark.  If we were ever in their room with the dogs, and Clark was trying to investigate their bags, toys, clothes, or whatever belonged to the kids, Roxy would get in between Clark and the kids' things and growl at him.  After he would go away, she would go over to their stuff and literally try to push their things back into their bags with her nose.  So funny!  I think the dogs' "high" was playing bubbles with the kids...and by playing, I mean catching them in their mouth when the kids blew them.  Their "low" was probably the same as mine...well for Roxy at least.  I don't think Clark noticed anything different...have I mentioned he is our "special" dog?  Roxy on the other hand...I'm not so sure fostering is going to the best for her.  She got super sad when they didn't come back.  The night they left she walked around the house whining.  Usually when she does that it's because she has to potty or is hungry or thirsty.  This time, nothing we did would make her stop.  Then in the morning she really wanted to go in their rooms to see if they were there.  It was so sad...she went in and sniffed all around looking for them, hoping they were just playing hide 'n seek...I'm sure that's exactly what she was thinking, right??  Haha.

Here are some other fun things we did:
  • rode the DART train to a park (which included a very long walk to the park, which the kids were real troopers...next time I'll do a better job of planning out where we are going exactly instead of trying to wing it)
  • walked to our neighborhood park and duck pond and played...when we didn't find any ducks, we had to go on a duck hunt to see where they were...no worries, we found them floating down a tiny creek
  • went to church where the kids did a great job in their Sunday school class for BOTH services (Dave teaches an adult class and I volunteer in the children's ministry for the first service)
  • went to a pump-it-up party for one of the girl's classmates
  • got haircuts and had interesting conversations with their very interesting hairdresser, Christian
  • made lots of fun food - mini fruit pizzas, nutella and banana toast (to which the girl said "this is just great"), blueberry waffles, and made food faces out of our lunches
  • played wii Mario Kart (just look at all the valuable lessons we get to teach them...even how to drive!)
  • looked for and found rolly pollys
  • played Clark's favorite game called "chase the red laser" (Roxy is wayyyy too smart for that game)
So in conclusion, it was a great experience and it made me super excited to have "our own" foster kids.  I'll probably be writing another post here in a few days to update everyone on our status and what is going on with our agency. 

See you again real soon! :)       

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

update

Hello all!
Sorry that it has been so long since my last post.  Not a whole lot has happened since then, so there hasn't been a lot to write about.  I did want to write a quick update just for those that are curious...

We did finish our training...woo hoo!  It was nice to get it done so quickly, but those 2 weeks were LONG!  After our training we had 2 more things to get done, which were fingerprinting and physicals.  Fingerprints are done and we are having a slight hiccup in scheduling Dave's physical.  We didn't realize that getting a physical would take so much planning, but apparently doctors are quite booked when it comes to giving physicals.  Dave's family doctor cannot get him in for a physical until March 19th!  Seriously??  He tried to go to a walk-in-clinic but they would not do it because the form requests medical history.  Grrrrrr.  So...I have bugged the sweet lady who handles the application process at our agency enough to where she is asking the person in charge of homestudies and the agency director if they can make an exception for us.  Normally, you have to have every singular piece of paperwork in before they schedule your homestudy.  I'm hoping that since we are just waiting around until the 19th to get Dave's physical done, we can go ahead and schedule/do our homestudy.  We shall see.  We found all this out today and although it was frustrating, I trust that God's timing is absolutely perfect.  So as much as I had planned to be doing our homestudy by next week, God's plan may look different than that, and He probably (okay definitely) knows what's best for us.  To be completely honest, as much as I am "ready" to start taking in foster children, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if we didn't have kids until end of May/beginning of June because I would be out of school and therefore would not have to worry about daycare...if we get that are under school-age of course.  Plus it would give us more time to do fun projects around the house that we have wanted to do before kids get here.

Speaking of projects, Dave has been busy building us a kitchen table!  I love that he loves to do things like that.  He got some pretty sweet tools and has already started a list of things he wants to build for us.  Here is said list:
1.  workbench
2.  dog house
3.  dresser/changing table
4.  wood countertops for the kitchen (yes please!!)
5.  bunk bed frame

Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure he could add a few to that list.  Isn't he handy??  Again, I love that he loves projects like this.  Our kitchen table is turning out very nice.  And it's his first project with all his fancy tools...I'd say he's doing a fantastic job!  Here is a picture of the tabletop:


It will still be sanded and stained.  We are deciding on if we want a dark stain for the top with a white base, legs and chairs.  OR a light stain for the top with a fun color for the base, legs, and chairs...like green or yellow (feel free to vote).  This is my job apparently and I'm not that great at making decisions.  I'm usually great at narrowing it down to 2, but then take forever deciding.  If it's clothes, I usually just end up getting both.  If it's food, you can usually get it in some sort of combo.  This even goes back to my younger days.  When I was in high school I really wanted to get a bike.  I wasn't sure if I wanted a road bike or a mountain bike, so I got a hybrid.  Has anyone ever bought a hybrid??  It's kinda ridiculous.  It's definitely not a good bike to "race" in because you are pedaling however many times more than those that have a road bike and the tires are not quite durable enough to handle the bumps and rocks of mountain biking.  So it's great for a stroll around the neighborhood, but that's about it.  And yes, I did do the MS150 (the bike "race" from Houston to Austin) TWICE in my totally useful  useless hybrid.  I was definitely regretting my decision when road bikes would whiz by and it seemed as though the rider was barely pedaling.  So....all that to say, I'll probably come up with some crazy combo of stain and paint colors that seems really good at the time, but in the end will fail miserably.  Again, feel free to vote and help me from not making that mistake :)  Luckily, Dave is really good at decision making and he has a great eye for things like this. 

Other than working on our kitchen table in our spare time, we haven't been up to a whole lot.  Our fabulous friends threw us a foster care shower and we are super grateful for our friends and family who came and gave us their support.  (If you are seeing this and thinking "why wasn't I invited?" I apologize.  We struggled with the invite list as we knew it wasn't a "typical" shower and we are really not good at asking people for things...something we definitely need to work on, or just get over.)  I am just so thankful that we have such a great community to walk this journey with us and care for the orphans right alongside us.  Even the women in our new community group are offering cribs, pack 'n plays, clothes, toys, etc....wow, such a huge blessing!!  I don't know how we could do this without our family and community...so thank you! 

Hopefully I will be writing again soon to say that our homestudy is scheduled!  If not, I'll keep you updated with our fun projects that keep us busy while we eagerly wait. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Breaking Point

Well we are more than 1/2 way done with our training!  We have 2 more evenings (this Monday and Tuesday) and we'll be DONE!  Then on to our home study and writeup.  We still have about 3 more things to do on our "list," but hoping to get those done this week and next.  As you saw in my last post, our health/safety inspection was delayed because of our backyard renovation.  But, now that the yard is pretty much done, we should be able to schedule it next week.  For those that are not on facebook or haven't seen it...here is what is looks like now:

flagstone rock with Mexican beach pebbles in between

We want to put in some plants, but that might not happen right away.  So other than some cleanup, it is pretty much done!  Dave's friend, AJ, and a few of his guys did a great job...I love how unique it is.

So at yesterday's training we were asked what I think is our hardest question yet - "What is my breaking point?"  Among other things, the person presenting, Lisa, is in charge of what are called "placement breakdowns."  This means that a family gets a placement and something happens that makes the adults say "that's enough, these kids need to leave."  Which means, after the trauma and craziness that has already happened in these kids' lives, they are once again moved to a different foster family who can hopefully "handle" them.  From her questions and obvious frustration (rightfully so), this apparently happens more than I'd like to think.  I know we haven't had any kids yet and have no idea what it's actually like, but this is so frustrating to think about.  I know there are situations where it's completely understandable and better for the kids if they are moved, but I don't get it.  Isn't this what you sign up for when you take kids into your home?  So, Lisa's point in asking everyone this question is that we would truly figure out what "type" of behaviors or kids that we would not be able to foster.  That way, when they are placing children in your home, they can find ones that are the best fit for your family and in doing this will hopefully prevent a placement breakdown.  Lisa said the top 2 answers were physical aggression and acting out sexually.  In our group, some of the answers were aggression towards animals, threatening the lives of other people in the family, and kids with special needs.  Our answer was nothing.  Lisa didn't like that.  She said there has been too many times where people have sat in our chairs and said "there is no kid I can't foster," and then the next thing she knows they are calling her with a breakdown.  So she pushed us...as she should.  She said things like "what if they hurt your pets? what if they wipe feces on the walls? what if they are autistic? have downs syndrome? what if they act out sexually towards me (that one was directed toward Dave)?"  As I listened to her questions, of course I wanted to say "no thank you to all of those."  (Thinking of a kid hurting, or even killing, Clark or Roxy...are you kidding me??  I'm tearing up just thinking about it.)  Dave's response, of course, was "bring it on."  But isn't that stupid of us??  Shouldn't we set boundaries??  This is where I'm at today and I need your prayers. 

I know we are starting out and it would be smart of us to start with "easy" kids, but I feel guilty setting boundaries.  I feel like that is me not trusting that God will give us the right kids, and a situation that we can handle.  I feel like it's not fair that we get to "pick" our kids.  When you have biological kids you don't get to pick if your kids will have certain behaviors or disabilities.  You have no idea if they will grow up to be physically aggressive, or sexually active at a young age, or autistic, or defiant, or whiney.  And you certainly can't call someone with your biological kids and say "these aren't really working for our family, can I have different ones?"  So why should I get to pick?  Of course when you have biological kids you do choose the environment they grow up in and the care that you give them, so in that sense your kids are not "as likely" to have some of these behaviors that foster kids might have.  But God did not choose for us to have biological kids, right now.  So if we are trusting that His plan is good, then what do our boundaries look like?  Isn't that saying "ok God, I'll go down this path you are asking me to walk, but only to a certain point."  I understand that God probably isn't asking us to put ourselves on the altar for foster kids, but how do I know what we can and can't handle?  I want to be honest with myself so that we don't bring more trauma to a kid whose already been through so much.  I know Dave and I are committed to that, so I want to be realistic.  But I also know that we can probably "handle" more than some just because of my experience in working with special needs kids and Dave's willingness to handle any situation God gives him.  So if God has equipped us with these abilities, shouldn't we use them?  I honestly don't know what to do.  

For now, although I know Dave would be open to anyone and everyone (and I love him for that), I think we will set an age boundary of 0-10.  Even with that - do we know anyone with kids above the age of 5ish that could support us?  One of my friends that does foster care says that when you get babies the "stuff" pours in (clothes, diapers, food, gear, etc.), but as the age of kids you get gets older, the less stuff you get from your community.  Which sort of makes sense - the majority of our friends don't have "stuff" for 10 year olds.  So does it make sense to walk into something knowing that we will need support and probably not receive it?  Or, again, do we just trust that God will provide and not give us something that we can't handle. 

So...please pray for us as we think about and decide other boundaries that we might need to set, such as level of care (there are 4 levels of care based on the needs of the child...starting with basic, then moderate, etc.).  After talking with the same friend, I think I've decided that boundaries are good.  As she said - "boundaries are good in all areas of your life, so why not foster care?"  But I still struggle with feeling guilty about it, and mainly because it seems like I'm not trusting God if I set boundaries for us.  I think I need to let that go.  I think that is a pride issue, saying/thinking that I can do anything.  I know pride is going to be a slippery slope as we walk down this road of sacrifice, and I know I need to keep that in check.  I think I need to learn that it's okay to not be "open" to any kid right now.  I think it's okay to start out with "easy" kids with the intention of growing and being able to take on older and more difficult kids as we gain experience.  And when we get calls for kids that are pushing our boundaries, I know I need to learn how to say "no."  I know I have so much to learn, I just hope that it's not at the expense of the kids.  Again, I'm just praying and trusting that God's plan IS good for us and He will bring the right kids into our home.