Sunday, April 3, 2016

Why We're Glad We Did It

(part two of Becoming a Family of Eight Overnight)

After dropping the children off to their caseworker, Joel and I wondered why they'd move after just one day, why they'd even come here for that day.  God works in mysterious ways, and I'm sure there are reasons we won't understand until after this life.  But here's the list of things we learned and reasons we're thankful we had those children.  And why, if we had it to do over, we'd still take them for that day.

The number six - as in, being mother to six children - is not crazy.
Yes, it was hard.  Yes, at the end of the day, I was exhausted.  However, it was an "I accomplished something" sort of tired, and I think that, as life had become more settled and our routines had solidified for the kids, it wouldn't have been too bad.  (Not trivializing life as a parent of a large family, just saying I think I could do it.:)

My love for my children grew immensely.
Joel and I learned that our kids are stronger, kinder, and more responsible under pressure than we knew.  Watching Little Boy put on a brave face as he came to tell me that a toy had been stolen yet again, hearing Little Girl tell me Little Boy was in his room taking some alone time, watching them bravely give up almost 100% of their attention from Mom and Dad - how many young children could do that?  How many would choose to?  Suddenly having four siblings was a rude awakening for them, but they didn't complain a single time.  They both were brave and made the best of it.  That night, as we were sitting in our again-quiet home, I had never loved them more or felt more thankful for them.

My love for and relationship with Joel grew stronger.
We're usually pretty balanced emotionally - when one of us needs help, the other is doing well, and vice versa.  This weekend, though, we were mostly high together and low together.  We took turns with the kids to stay sane :) and seeing him take over for me even though he wasn't ready, made me feel his love for me.  Taking over for him when I wasn't ready also strengthened my love for him.  There's something about being called on to act on your love in a big way, that makes it grow bigger.

Babies: All it takes is the baby aisle at Walmart to make you feel like you don't know anything.
Enough said.

More people support us than we knew.
After dropping the kids off, the first thing Joel said was, "Maybe Heavenly Father gave us this day so we'd see how many people around us are here for us."  We've struggled socially in this place.  Don't get me wrong - people are very kind, and we have friends.  But we came from an area where we made the closest friends of our lives, and we've missed that.  "But that night [Thursday], as we sat in the living room talking to [Friends With Kids], I thought, 'Here are the friends we've been looking for.'"  People spontaneously dropped off meals; set up meals for the next couple weeks; gave us beds; offered to watch our children while we set things up for our foster children; offered to donate clothes, toys, baby supplies; texted us encouragement; felt like literal lifelines - and our eyes were opened.  God showed us the love that's been all around us, and we're thankful.  

I can ask for help.
I don't have a lot of practice with this.  But I got to the point where I needed it badly, and when someone offered, I answered honestly.  "We're supposed to pick up a bed this afternoon, and I either need someone to get it for us or to come stay with me while Joel gets it.  I'm terrified to have all six to myself on the first day."

During hard times, taking one day at a time (without really looking to the future) is key.
Most of the difficulty came from fear / feeling intimidated.  Can we do this?  Are we good enough, strong enough, structured enough?  How can we parent six children???  I called my parents twice on Friday, crying, afraid I couldn't do it.  My dad reminded me that all I needed to do was think about the rest of today.  Do your best for one day, and when you wake up in the morning, you'll do it again.  I can't describe the amount of peace that gave me.  When he said that, I immediately felt a strong resolve.  I knew I could take care of them for one day, and that's all I needed to know.

It's not bad to cry.
I cried, oh... probably about a hundred times between 1:00pm on Thursday and 8:00pm on Friday.  I was afraid, overwhelmed, intimidated, thankful, feeling supported.   The first time I was a little self-conscious.  After that, I realized, anyone would feel full of emotion during all of this!  No shame in letting some of it come out. :)

My parents are my rock.
Did I mention I called them twice, crying?  They were encouraging and supportive and full of "You can do it!"s.  They're the best.

We have a lot of stuff to get rid of!
Seriously.  You don't realize how much you have until you have to move. (or move all your stuff into different rooms to make space for more people)

My appreciation for myself as a mother is stronger.
I am a good mother.  I can put others above myself.  I have a lot of love to give.  I can be fiercely protective.  When things get rough and my family needs a rock, I dig down and take charge, and I'm good at it.  I can do well with difficult children.

There are days I question those things.  I feel selfish, or so frustrated I wonder where my love is.  But then I hear myself say, "Let's move my sewing room downstairs so they can have a bedroom closer to ours."  And I hear Joel say, "Wow, Mama Bear came out when #2 was mean to Little Boy."  And I realize that, even though twenty minutes ago I was crying, right now I'm having a blast and loving, and the kids are all happy because I'm here - and I've gone twenty minutes without a break.  And I hold back tears when, even though he just finished a screaming fit filled with "I hate you"s, #2 tells me he'll only go on a car ride if I come, too.

And last, but not least,
God will make up for any injustice in this life.  
Telling those four kids they were leaving might've been the hardest thing I've ever done.  I felt sad that they'd have to transition again.  I didn't think it was fair.  And then I remembered the lesson I've learned over and and over as a foster parent - God will make up for any injustice in this life.  No, it wasn't fair.  It's not fair that they're in foster care at all.  But one day, the Atonement will make everything right.  If I didn't have faith in that, I couldn't do what I do.  It would be too depressing.  But I do have faith in it.  And that's why, next time I get a phone call that feels right for our family, we'll say yes again.


For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

Friday, April 1, 2016

Becoming a Family of Eight Overnight

So, it's not quite the book I promised, but here are my thoughts from the last couple days.

On Thursday at 1:00pm, I got a phone call from a DCFS worker, telling us about an influx of children in the system right now and asking if we would be willing to take a sibling group of four, ages 6, 4, 2, and 7 months.

I called Joel, our kids' therapist, Joel again, and then a friend who has seven children (to ask her if she thought we were crazy for considering it).  Joel and I decided that we needed to discuss it with our kids before making a decision either way.  He came home from work early, picked up Little Boy from school, and then we had a family discussion.  It went something [exactly] like this:

Joel: We got a phone call today that there are four kids living in [shelter].
Little Boy: Let's go get them.
Me: They need a family to take care of them for a while.
Little Girl: We can be their family.

We talked about possible concerns, struggles, what we'd need and expect from them to make it all work.  We prayed together, made a decision, and then prayed again to let God know what we'd decided.

We decided to say yes.

On Thursday at 2:00pm, I called back the DCFS worker and told her we wanted those kids.

"You mean, you'd take all of them??"

Isn't it heartbreaking that sibling groups often have to be split up?

The next eight hours or so were intense.  Joel and I called our parents (and asked them to call our siblings), and then we proceeded to clean and otherwise prep our house like crazy.  We moved the kids' beds, clothing, etc., so they'd be sharing a room.  We moved my sewing room downstairs so the foster kids could have bedrooms close to ours.  We bought and assembled beds, booster seats, and carseats.  Joel's mom came to help us move things, and my visiting teachers were angels and coordinated meals for the next little while to help us out.  The kids were absolutely amazing and helped until they were so overwhelmed, they cried.  All four of us got priesthood blessings, and a friend / couple encouraged and taught us tricks / survival tactics :) for parenting so many children.

When we went to bed at midnight, Joel and I were more nervous than maybe ever in our entire lives.  We alternated between being excited and wondering what in the world we'd gotten ourselves into.

But when Friday morning came - and time to go pick up those wonderful children - we both felt ready.  All four of us piled into the car, drove to the shelter, and there met some of the most beautiful children I've ever seen.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind.  We watched a movie; they had a blast trying out a new family's toys; we played together, ate together, read together, and Joel and I learned how to take care of a baby.  There was plenty of laughing, and also plenty of crying.  Things were hard.  For us, for our children, for our foster children.  But we worked as a team and tried our best to figure things out.  Our daughter and our oldest foster daughter called each other "Sister" and "My Friend."

And then, around dinnertime, we were asked to drop them off back to the caseworker so they could go to a more permanent placement.

We didn't understand.  They didn't understand.  We wondered why God had asked us to be their home for just a day.  Having to look in a child's eyes - a child who you've somehow already begun to love and who has somehow already begun to trust you - and tell him that he's going somewhere else, is literally one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  As we drove home that night after dropping them off, we told our children we were sorry parts of the day had been hard for them, but we weren't at all sorry that we'd done it.

How could that be?  How could a family drop everything, change everything in their lives, and spend so much time and energy preparing for a giant change, only for it all to go away 24 hours later?  We still have all the beds, boosters, and carseats.  The baby wipes, baby bottles, pacifiers, bibs, new mattresses.  There were three dirty diapers in various rooms when we got home, new sets of sheets in the dryer, a crib set up in our bedroom, and other scattered signs that new people had lived there, if only for a day.  Would we have done it all if we'd known it would've been for just one day?

PART 2, COMING IN THE MORNING (because I'm exhausted and need to go to bed):
Why We're Glad We Did It


It wasn’t the circumstances that mattered but how I responded to them.  I could passively wait for the wonderful to occur - and still find something wrong.  Or I could accept whatever events did come my way and try to appreciate them a little more.
The Grateful Diaries