Friday, May 29, 2015

the circle of life

When an acquaintance dies: 
Isn't it a weird feeling?
That feeling, when you just saw someone a couple weeks ago at the park who was fine, and now they're not?
That feeling, when you keep hearing his voice in your mind over and over, "Let me tell you a war story," and the rest of the group chuckling, because that's what he does.  And, even though you didn't know him very well, you'll miss that part of Sunday School.
That feeling when you think, "Man.  I was always kind of hoping I'd get to know him better."
He just turned 90.  If you make it to 90 looking and acting like you're 75, how can you just be gone?

when you saw a sign on the counter last time you were at IHOP that says one of their waiters died that weekend.
You didn't know him and had never been served by him.  but he was only 20.  

I know this isn't how death of a loved one feels.  I've felt that, and that post would never be written so casually.  This wasn't, either.  But you know what I mean.

Death makes more sense when it happens over time.  When you know it's coming.  
But when it just happens.  When it just happens, it doesn't even seem real.
Until you think about the wife.


Until now, I thought only of what stories could do in their moment.  I was the ploughman, turning the hearts of my audience like soil, thinking I could bend the earth to my will.  But stories have a quieter and more subtle power than that.  Now I see that I am also the ploughman’s wife walking behind him, dropping seeds into the earth, leaving them to grow in meaning.  I realize that every story I have ever heard is a part of me, deeply rooted, whispering behind my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

foster care: part 9 - the final installment (unless you ask more questions:)

"Tomorrow" turned into "next month"!  Life has been over here.  :)

How long did it take for all of you to get into a groove?
Our first placement was only five days long, but I'd say we were in one by the time they left.  They still had tantrums, nighttime was full of waking up, and one of them still had some trouble with liking Joel, but things were pretty smooth overall.   They seemed to feel comfortable in our house within about... a minute of arriving.  One had a hard time adjusting to Joel, but after a day or so she wouldn't scream when left with him.

It took Joel and me a few days to come up with a routine because we'd never been parents before, and we made some changes with our second placement.  With our current placement, things were a little weirder because one started school after a week, so we got into a routine and then things got changed up.  They were comfortable with us almost immediately, though.

Now, that's not to say either placement thought of us as parents right off.  The first group thought we were a sleepover.  That was rough.  The second group had some issues with dishonesty at first because they didn't know whether they could trust us.  That lasted a few weeks, and we're still (six months later) working on always keeping an open dialogue so they know they can talk about what they're feeling.  But we definitely feel like a family.

Is anything easier than you anticipated?
- The kids are!  In the training classes, we were prepared for the worst.  In fact, towards the end of the classes, we were told that a lot of what we were being prepared for was more difficult than we were even licensed for.  That's not to say all Level 1 kids are as "easy" as ours have been, but ours have been great.
- Also, consistency.  I've found that, with specific goals and reasons for why I say / do what I do, consistency in many areas is pretty easy to maintain.
- Potty training was.  It only took Little Girl three or four days.
- Grocery shopping with kids is not as difficult as I anticipated, although there's still one I prefer not to take with me.  Haha :)

Did anything surprise you about fostering?
- how quickly we loved them and mourned losing them - Our first placement was only five days long, but I couldn't believe how much I missed them when they were gone.
- how demanding parenthood really is - Before we started fostering, pretty much all of my time was my own.  I thought I'd mentally prepared myself to give it all up, but man!  The day Joel went back to work after getting our first placement was a BEAST.  It was much harder than I'd anticipated.  I was thankful they left after a short time and then we had a couple weeks before the next (longer-term) ones, because I got to actually prepare myself for what was coming. 
- how great Joel is at handling tantrums - He taught me how to do it!
- how God sends the right kids at the right time - When you have a biological child, you can be fairly positive that the right child is being sent to you, right? :)  When you do foster, you get a phone call that asks if you want someone and you have to decide if s/he's the right child or not!  It's felt (to me) like a lot of pressure.  But every time we've prayed about a placement, it's amazed me how clearly we know whether to say yes or no.  
- how nervous I was to meet biological parents at the first couple visits.  Also, how nice the parents have been.  (We've been told ours are some of the most polite.)
- how many times they wake up at night - I expected this with babies.  I did not expect it with older children.  With both placements, we were getting up consistently every night about eight times a night, usually to screaming.  Thankfully that only lasted a couple weeks with our current placement, although there are occasional regressions.
- that I don't beat myself up about my parenting - From everything I've heard and read, I fully expected this to be something I would struggle with.  The reality is, I feel happy and proud of the parent I am.  I truly (and not pridefully) feel like we do a pretty great job.
- Our schedule is busier but the middle of the day is much less busy than I expected.
- how little TV we watch
- how much I have to censor myself, others, and media - I don't talk crudely, I don't swear, I don't listen to music that does, I don't watch inappropriate things on TV.  But one of the first dinners we had with another family after getting foster kids, someone told us about a hilarious episode of some show... that was all about someone hiding drugs around the house so they wouldn't get arrested.  Wait!  Stop!  Our kids know too much about that exact drug!  This isn't funny!  (2) I've always talked with my friends about how much I love darker skin.  I still love dark skin, but I'm much more conscious about how I say it now that I've had four children with dark skin.  I don't want them to feel weird or so different.  (3) I took the kids to a PG-rated movie during Spring Break.  In the movie, a family member died.  I almost had to take Little Girl out of the theater twice because of how hard she was crying.  

What have you learned?
- After our first placement (and first time as parents), we decided not to sing kids to bed.  They were up SO MANY TIMES per night, we were singing all night long!  Now we use a CD.  Haha :)
- I feel like we've learned pretty well how to deal with tantrums.  Our first placement was pretty volatile, and we had to learn that quickly! 
- how to get pee smell out of carpet, even when it's old
- Weekly visits can double as free babysitting for weekly dates!  if you're okay with your weekly date being 50 minutes long. :)
- I LOVE kids (as opposed to babies).  When we first started, we thought we'd only want infants.  Now, we're so in love with kids who can interact - and say why they're upset - that I think an infant would be hard.
- The support system - both for us and them - is so much bigger than I realized.
- how to let go of "perfect" when it comes to asking the kids to help clean
- that "play alone time" is important for my happiness and really good for them
- how little I smile when I'm needing to be efficient, even if I feel happy
- how to let Joel take over after work - and that he's happy to do it and wants to
- Reading novels sometimes doesn't make me the best mom.  I live so much in a cloud when I'm in the middle of a good book!  It's hard for me to not resent having to stop reading to help someone.  I've been practicing being better about this.
- how to do hair - Little Girl has thick hair that goes down past her bum + fringy hair around her face, and she hates having hair in her face.  I've learned a LOT about braiding. :)

Would you do it again?
100%, yes!

Would you recommend it to others?
Not to everyone, but I would recommend it to many more people than do it.  People always tell me , "Oh, I couldn't do that," or, "You're so much better than me," but I think many more could do it and would love it than realize.  So if you've ever had an interest, take a look!  Call a DCFS office!  You can also foster through other agencies (not government), although I don't know how that works, so if the government isn't your cup of tea, explore your options!  If you're waiting for the "right time," by the way - for things to be perfect at home before you bring in extras - things will never be perfect.  

I'm so happy I got so many questions and could clear up a lot of misconceptions!  I'm also really happy that a lot of you came back and kept reading!  I'll check the survey answers every so often to see if I've gotten any new questions, so please feel free to ask more if you have more!

Read other posts on this topic:
Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8

Ask more questions


“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do!  Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress?  All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!  Voldemort is no different!  Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him.  He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince