Update & Photo Dump

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Life is constant.  We are busy, to say the least.

The boys and I are 3 weeks into a new school year at Central Park School for Children.  I am teaching 1st grade and loving it!  I have the most amazing group of learners.  Working full-time, as a lead teacher, makes life full but I am enjoying it.  I am learning how to manage home life and more work.  I miss being home, but I have a peace about teaching at CPSC.  Yes, I am tired, but I am very thankful to be an active member of the learning community at our school.  There is so much to look forward to each day.

Kalen started 5th grade and Brayden is now in 3rd.  They are adjusting and enjoying the newness.

We are fostering to adopt a five year old diamond in the rough.  He has been with us since July 18th.  He stayed with us several weekends this summer to see if he would be a good fit for our family.  We all weighed in and decided to help this little guy out.  He is a little ball of joy.  He loves life and is very active, as are we!  He has some baggage, but don’t we all?  We are thankful to be able to love him right where he is in his life right now.

Madelyn, Kalen and Brayden are starting up soccer (we spent 8 hrs on the soccer fields today).  Julian is about to start high school, Maddie 7th grade.  Scott is revving up for another school year at Elon.

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Maddie was a part of a Collage Project at Duke School this summer. Here she is the night of the culminating event. This is her moose puppet she made.

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First day of school for Brayden, 3rd grade.

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Scott and I waiting for Maddie’s presentation for the Collage Project.

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July 18th. N came to stay. 🙂

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First day of school, Kalen, 5th grade.

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Kalen & Brayden

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Julian Jeremiah, awaiting Maddie’s performance.

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N practicing his numbers with my mom, not long after first meeting her. 🙂

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Kalen’s amazing fish

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Me this summer on a date with my Scott at one of our favs, Remedy Diner in Raleigh.

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Madelyn’s owl

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Some of my students right after lunch one day, during quiet time.

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The first week in my class. I love first grade!

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Last week, my dad took our whole family out for pizza and to a Durham Bull’s Baseball game. We had a blast. Maddie got her face painted.

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Brayden pointing out something to N at the baseball game. N had a ball that night!

Summertime

It is finally feeling like summer.  I have been done with work for a week now.  I have been able to enjoy life at home with the kids, have some poolside relaxation and even take care of a foster kid.

We had the opportunity to provide respite care for a five year old boy last weekend.  He was unlike any foster child we have had come through our door.  He showed us he is an extremely capable child, full of life and a very good communicator.  Oh, and he is very bright.  He does have a very sad start to life.  We are hopeful for him.  We enjoyed our three days with him.  It had been a year since we had had any placements.

I have some news.  I mentioned in a previous post that I will be teaching 2nd grade next year, that has changed.  I am able to teach 1st grade and even keep most of my students from the kindergarten class that I took over for.  I am very excited about this opportunity and already planning for it!  I go back in the beginning of July, as we are a year around school.

For now, I am going to enjoy The Fault in our Stars, an amazing novel, fun and meaningful family time, sunshine and good food!  Yay for summer!

The Middle Mom

It has been about nine months since we had our last foster children in our home.  Since then, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of the seven kids that have come through our home and left to be with their forever families.  I think of fostering again and I am met with an extreme mix of emotions.

Fostering children is a messy endeavor.  Even with very open hearts, we have been stretched and depleted in ways we didn’t think possible.  In the same breath, we have been grown and strengthened by the little ones that have taught us more about love and selflessness than we could have ever dreamed.  Our children, as well as Scott and I, have grown in compassion and understanding.  Don’t think this was easy to come by though.  Dealing with the effects of trauma, physical wounds, undesirable behavior, attachment issues, night feedings, screaming, hyperactivity, not to mention all the people that become a part of your lives… all the social workers, therapists, doctors, biological parents and specialists and juggling all of life’s activities and schedules…. can take its toll on anybody.  But, we learn from these experiences, inconveniences, and challenges.  They make us better people.

I have been praying for the chance to be a foster mom again.  We have recently been finishing the process of being relicensed, which is required every two years in our state.  It is not an enormous inconvenience, but it does take work.  Enough work to think, is this really something I (we) want to do again?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Scott and I have been talking to our four kids about opening our home up again to foster.  We think it is very important to stay open with our own kids about where we are in this journey and listen to them express their ideas and feelings about it as well.

I started reading this book The Middle Mom by Christie Erwin a few days ago and I am already done reading it.  It is a memoir of Erwin’s experiences fostering over forty children during the past fifteen years.  Her family decided to start fostering through a private agency.  Their particular fostering story started with taking on baby placements for 10 days at a time.  They would pick up the babies from the hospital, sometimes even naming them.  Then, the baby’s forever family would meet them at the agency ten days later.  Then, after several years, the Erwin’s decided to work within their state’s foster care system.  This proved to be a truly different and challenging experience.  The placements were much longer.  I enjoyed reading through case after case that Erwin and her family worked with.   The Erwin’s ended up adopting two kids from the foster care system and continue to foster and be active members of their county adoption coalition and Pulaski County Heart Gallery.

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I have found her writing to be extremely encouraging and interesting.  There are so many feelings and experiences she shares within this book that I can relate to.  I have been pleased that Erwin doesn’t just share the golden moments of fostering, but the true pain, loss and hardship it brings.  She tells many stories from her journey that show the whole scope of emotions and the give and take that are involved in this ministry.

Fostering is truly a ministry, although I have never put those words to it.  It is a chosen work that causes us to put others before ourselves.  This isn’t comfortable or easy.  To walk into what one knows will be a challenge is daunting to say the least.  As we foster, it is our mission to serve these kids and live our belief that they deserve to be known, valued and loved unconditionally.  They deserve a voice.  They deserve a family that will cradle them and pour transforming love and grace over them.  Erwin writes, “They deserve to be loved with everything I have as a parent: the sold out, no-holds- barred love, without the presumption of receiving something in return, without condition, regardless of their behavior, attitude or actions.”  Not only are we ministering to needy kids, we are serving their parents.  We are working alongside the birth parents to ensure that these kids are cared for in the best possible way until there is reunification or other arrangements for permanency have been made.

In our experience, God takes all of our willingness, inadequacies and flaws and works through us to transform foster children through His love.  I still anticipate the next phone call from DSS (Department of Social Services) asking us if we will give a child or two a home.  The most unnerving thing is that “the call” never comes when you have a clean house, you are starting a three day weekend, your pantry is fully stocked or your kids are all bathed and in perfect health and brimming with great attitudes.  I have been asked if I am ready for the next placement.  My answer is that I do not think anyone is ever fully ready.  There is so much unknown wrapped up in a placement, we can never be truly prepared.  I feel that we can only be waiting with an openness and readiness for service in the midst of our daily this and that.  I know that if the Lord blesses us with the opportunity to foster again, I will be high and low, I will be pouring out and praying a lot.  If He wants to use us, He will give us (our entire family) what we need in order to care for foster children.  Does this mean I will make myself vulnerable?  Yes.  Vulnerable to make mistakes, to doubt, to fear and at times lose hope.  This vulnerability also means putting my trust in God, putting my hope in Him that He will do amazing things in the lives of very needy children and work through this imperfect, often disorganized, simple minded and naive woman … a middle mom.

Revisiting Fostering Journey

Tonight we were able to speak to a group of folks at our church about our fostering story.  What a privilege it was to speak so candidly about the good, bad, and sometimes ugly parts of what we know fostering to be.

We were able to reflect and share about how we came about the choice to open our home to kids in need through fostering.  We spoke of all four placements, seven children, that we have fostered.  There were many ups and downs that we were able to speak about.  We shared pamphlets that DSS was kind enough to let us give to those interested.  I showed the group several books that I have read that have encouraged me and inspired me related to fostering.

Click here to see previous posts centered around our fostering experience.

I must say, it was refreshing to be in a room with folks that wanted to listen and were open to the topic of fostering children.  Not that the topic is foreign at our church.  We have had several families that have fostered in the past.  It was encouraging today to sit across from people who have this type of giving on their hearts.

I did not post about our last placement.  In April we had the unique opportunity of fostering two sisters for almost two weeks.  Because I was working full-time and our own kids still were heavily involved with soccer, I did not take the time to write about the girls.  However, they were totally worthy of post after post.  These precious girls were two- and four-years-old.  Beautiful and smart, these two came to us and won our hearts.  The case went to court and the grandmother was able to work it out to care for them, so they left us.  It is amazing how quickly attachments can develop.

We continue to get calls.  The need for foster parents is ongoing.  Two days ago we got a call about a 16-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother that needed to be placed.  I have learned how to say no and not feel terrible about it.  My heart does get heavy in that instant though.  It is evident that there are kids in need in our community, but to know of a specific kid and situation is harder to gulp.

For now, we are taking a rest from fostering.  We will continue to reevaluate our family’s availability.  I don’t think our fostering story is over.

The books that I shared with tonight’s group:

*Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

One Small Boat by Kathy Harrison

Damaged by Cathy Glass

Happy Kids by Cathy Glass

Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck & Regina Kupecky

*Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

(* favorites)

 

Still Thinking of Them

Last year this time, I was still getting them ready each day for their little school.

I could still hug them.

I was still fixing her hair.

We were still singing in the truck together.

We were still reading books together.

We were all still juggling life with the 8 of us.

We were still potty training him.

We still heard the pitter patter of much smaller feet.

It has been 8 months since our two foster children left us.  I know I can speak for every person here in our home, we still miss them.

I am reading a book by Jaiya John entitled Black Baby White Hands: A View From the Crib.  It is a memoir that I have just begun about John, a black man, that was adopted by a white couple in the late 60’s.  Thus far, the reading is rich with American history and John’s poetic telling of his beginnings.  I thought of our two little precious foster kids that were here for a year and a half as John wrote about his foster-mother:

I do not know her name, or her essence, but I do know that the nine months I spent in her presence shaped me.  I believe that she has passed away, but how I wish I could find her, wrap my arms tightly around her, and thank her for carrying me through my first nine months following birth, the second nine months of my existence.  It was in her care that I became more than a pronoun.

Tears came to my eyes when I read those words.  It seemed like his words hugged me.

I do wonder if they will remember us.

We helped them through a very difficult time in their little lives.

They were so young.

They may never find their way back to us, but a piece of us is with them and will forever be part of them and their story.

(M & S are currently in the process of being adopted by extended family.)

Incredible Sadness

Our foster children left three days ago.  It was heart and gut wrenching.  We all cried.  Words will not suffice regarding this transition that has taken place.

Friday, there were no tears in their eyes, only solemn faces in response to our unexplainable sad eyes.  There were no fits, no kicking and screaming.  We did tell them about this transition in as much detail as we thought they could understand.

M & S were silent upon leaving.  They took in as many hugs and kisses as we gave.  Believe me, we weren’t shy about covering them with I love you over and over.  They knew something big was happening.  It was bittersweet to notice the trust that they showed that day.  We’ve worked hard to earn their trust, and yet we were handing them over to caregivers that we don’t know well and we are unsure what the future may look like for them.  Believe me, it felt totally unnatural to hand these children over.  They left waving out the window of their new caregivers’ vehicle.  Our hearts sank, and some of us couldn’t even bare to look up.  I did though.  I felt like I was in a sad movie.  I mustered up a forced smile and called them by name.  The caregivers looked upon us with wordless apologies.  They all waved and off they went.

I drew in my arms and hands to my chest, turned and headed in to let out my sorrow.

The next few hours were full of worry.  Would they be okay?  I wanted to say, “Wait a minute, don’t be trusting kids… put your guard up… who knows what is going to happen in your life next.”  Did I forget to pack anything?  Would S & M need me and call out for me?  I wouldn’t be there.  I have physically let them go, but emotionally I haven’t.  I am partly still anticipating their needs and waiting for them to come back so I can mother them.

I have prayed a lot.  I have prayed for angels to escort them here and there and everywhere.  I have lifted them up each night asking God to calm their bodies, minds and hearts and allow them to rest.  I have prayed for their family, hoping they are healthy and able to take on this responsibility.  I have also repeatedly prayed, “Lord, help me.”

We have all been processing and grieving in our own ways.  There is an unspoken sadness lingering.  I am sure it will remain for some time.  We do talk about them.  And yes, I have found little tiny curls and little cars left here or there.  They are everywhere and they will remain.

This was just before they left.  That is a forced smile on Scott.  Isn’t she beautiful?

This was a few days before they left.  She was so taken with me painting her nails.  The delight in her eyes was breathtaking.