Monday, June 24, 2013

When Fear Creeps In aka What The HECK Are We Thinking?!

I'm writing from a vulnerable place this evening.  Keepin' it real.  Perhaps my blog tagline tonight should be "scared expectant foster mom, overwhelmed CPA and tired busy person...whose house is a wreck."   Yeah, that's about right.   But it took me two hours to make that new blog header so I'm going to leave it alone.

I recently met some new (really amazing) people at a Mission Waco meet-the-interns dinner and as I sat talking with a young mother, learning about each other, I answered her "do you have any kids?" question by launching into a conversation about our foster care trek.   As I clued her in on our story from scratch, I kept hearing myself say "it'll be a challenge for sure" and "it'll definitely be interesting" when inside...I was kind of freaking out.

Last night I looked over some of my recent blog posts and realized...I somehow sound kind of knowledgeable about this foster care stuff and as if I'm very emotionally put together about it.  Y'all, that's so not true.  And I'm not trying to falsely portray that at all.  Turns out a thought through and thrice edited blog post can come across a lot more polished and put together than if you were to spontaneously look into my heart.

Fear has crept in.

It has been there all along, to a degree, but lately it has been thick.  Maybe it's because we're kind of left in a holding pattern right now, waiting to hear about our true next steps from DFPS.  I don't know.  But the sugar coated phrases like "it'll definitely be interesting" have taken a turn in my heart and become what the heck are we thinking?!

I can have an intelligent and somewhat knowledgeable conversation about the reasons kids come into care, but when you think a little further past the sanitized labels of "abuse and neglect"...we're talking about babies born addicted to drugs because the mom was...five year olds flirting sensually with any grown men they see because that's all they have learned...small, innocent bodies being hit, dropped, shaken, screamed at...cries of basic need left unmet until the little voice realizes it does no good and so falls silent...    ...Where is Anna Pie the chirpy expectant foster mom now...

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the gravity of this path.  I get overwhelmed by the anticipation of struggle and heart break that we are intentionally heading towards.  I get overwhelmed by logistics of what it will take to get there. I get overwhelmed by the fact that neither set of grandparents live in the same city as us and, on the contrary, are each three hours away. I get overwhelmed by the fact that we are leaving a solid church family right when we really need a solid church family. I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that we need to buy and the fact that the planner in me feels like we need to somehow have all the clothes, furniture, toys and supplies we need for the entire 7 year age range of children that could come into our care...all before we are even licensed...

This fear can get exhausting.  But I'm learning that it's just part of this path we are on and is not a reason to send up the white flag.

My sweet friend, Steph, sent me a link to a blog post the other day, and I have read it about 53 times since.   You can click here for the whole thing if you want to, but I'm going to close with a few of this random lady's words because she expresses what I am learning so, so much better than I ever could...

I've figured out that fear is a terrible reason not to live.

How often do we limit ourselves out of a fear of the messy and unpredictable?

What do we miss because we’re afraid of being disappointed or inconvenienced?

The call to discipleship is a call to live—today—the life that’s right in front of us.
And if it’s not about mercy or adventure, then maybe it’s about adhering to the faithful voice of God. Huge decisions beg for direction that’s bigger than a pros and cons list. Don’t avoid the radical, but do wait on God’s guidance. Ultimately, despite the risks, all that matters is whether or not this is what God is asking us to do. And if the spirit of God brings confirmation, then by all means, jump out of that plane.

We only have these few years on earth to love a broken world. And it may be that we’re called in radical ways to get over ourselves and hug this place without letting go.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dear Women, A Quick Way To Turn Your Man On

Dear Women,

I've got a tip for you, a quick way to turn your man on.  Yeah, I'm going there.   In my experience, it goes something like this:

Me:  Babe, I want to go buy my own drill.

Him:  ...that's hot...

You're welcome, ladies.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

"I Could Never Be A Foster Parent"

This is another phrase we have heard several times since we made the decision to pursue foster care:

I could never be a foster parent.  

As with my other posts here and here about some responses and phrases we hear, it is with no hard feelings that I write this one now.  Really just a bit of explanation, and in this case, a challenge.   The thing is, I used to be very solidly in the "I could never be a foster parent" camp. About this time last year, I sat at Starbucks talking to a young lady who was at the beginning of an international adoption journey with her husband.  We sat there over our lattes, discussing the various ways to adoption and mutually agreed that that scary foster care realm was an area that needed so much help but...that just wasn't for us.  That was just too much.

...Funny how things change.  Funny how asking, seeking and answering can lead you full circle and plop you directly into what you said you wouldn't ever do...

Let's break this down a bit.  There is usually a follow up phrase to the one above.  It seems like most folks feel the need to tack on further explanation for why they "could never be a foster parent."  Here are some common ones along with my thoughts.

"I would be scared of falling in love with the kids."
This one kind of makes me giggle a bit inside is our job to fall in love with these kids.  If we have children placed with us who end up being able to go back home or go to a relative and we haven't fallen in love with them and haven't cared for them as if they were our own flesh and blood and our hearts aren't broken to pieces when they leave us...then we have failed.  We aren't supposed to be scared of falling in love with them, as if that is a forbidden feeling written into the foster parent training: Don't fall in love with the kids because they won't be with you forever.  On the contrary, we are supposed to dive headfirst into loving on these kids whether it looks like they will be with us for a few days, a few months, or the rest of their life.

"There are so many unknowns."
So, so true.  You don't know what the children will be like, if they will have struggles with behavior or learning or health.  You don't know if they will be with you forever or only a short time.  The list goes on.  But for a moment I want you to think of a parent giving birth to a biological child.   While there are indeed some pretty solid knowns in that scenario (race, age...), aren't there plenty of these same unknowns?  If someone gives birth to their child, they don't know what their child will be like.  They don't know if their child will have struggles with behavior or learning or health.  And they don't know if their child will be with them forever or only a short time, because honestly, life can be cut short in the blink of an eye.  Life is full of unknowns, people.   As much as you may want to be in control or think that you can're not.

"It would just be so hard."
Folks, we were given a ticket to a glorious and easy life but we left that ticket torn to pieces on the lush ground of the Garden of Eden.  Since then, a lot of people have been on a pursuit to bring the easy back into their life and make sure that that's all they've got.  All easy, no hard.  But...if you don't have any hard in your life, if you can cruise along with loving people around you, a nice roof over your head and money in the bank, if your main concerns are manicuring your lawn and maintaining your 401k, if you are living in your little bubble of've got a lot of capacity to pay attention to some of the hard around you.   I bet you wouldn't have to look hard to find it either.  Here is my challenge and question for you: Are you blindly running from the hard in a ceaseless effort to preserve and improve your bubble of easy?  Are you ignoring the hard around you, the poverty, the hunger, the injustice, the children who just need a loving home during possibly the hardest time of their life?  We've got lots and lots of easy in our life.  How about we help others by making a little room for something hard?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baby Closet Is Done

We've been making some progress on our list of house projects we need/want to do to get ready for foster care.  I am happy to report that we can check off one whole room!  ......well.....if you count a closet as a room...   

This was our baby room closet a few weeks ago:

Can I get a "ew, blech, boring, yucky."   Yeah.   So I squeezed my supplies and my self into this 2.5 x 2.5 foot closet and got to work.

After I put a few coats of white paint on the walls (and on my clothes and in my hair as I contorted myself around in this tiny space) it was looking sooooooo much better.

Then a little while later I painted the shelves the same blue as the walls have been painted (more reveal on that later!) and hung some baby boy clothes in there that our sweet friend Elizabeth gave us.

After mildly freaking out (in a good way) about the fact that there are baby clothes in our house, I called the closet done.

We still have a ton of projects to do.  Our hallway looks like this...

The back of our living room looks like this...

But our baby closet is done.

Progress, people.  Progress.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hidden Blessings In Our Kids' Rooms

A few weeks ago I posted our list of house projects we want/need to tackle to get ready for foster care. On that list I included "Special hidden blessing" for each of the bedrooms we are equipping for children.  It is exactly as it sounds...we have hidden a blessing in these rooms.

This idea began as something else.  I thought of getting wooden craft letters, painting them to match each room and putting them on the wall to show the message: You are safe. You are loved.  But after Trent and I discussed it for a bit we decided that, while we want the foster children in our home to be surrounded by positive reminders that they are indeed safe and they are indeed loved, we don't want those reminders to be presented in a way that is really more of a reminder that they are in foster care, that their family is in limbo, that this is out of the ordinary.   Seeing "You are safe. You are loved." on a daily basis could end up being a daily reminder of the situation that brought them into foster care, a situation where they were likely not safe and not loved.   They'll have plenty of reminders of that without us adding to them.

But we still wanted this statement to be present in their rooms.   So we hid it.  

For our baby room, I grabbed a regular Crayola marker and wrote our blessing for this room right onto the wall.

Then I painted over it.

This is a resilient blessing.  It took three coats of paint on this section of the wall to truly cover up these words.

For our kid room, since we are not going to repaint the walls in there, we needed to find another place to hide this blessing.  Nobody looks at the tops of doors right?

So there you have it...our very intentional, yet very hidden blessings in our kids' rooms.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Flashback To Childhood - Bambina

During my wonderful childhood in the country, my family came across a baby deer with no family and in need of some care.  So we took care of her until she was old enough to return to the woods on her own.   We named our little fawn Bambina.   She drank milk from bottles, gave us kisses and played soccer (f'real, we have video footage).  

Me and Bambina and my beloved fruit shorts:

My older brother, John, getting deer kisses:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dear Women, You Rock

Dear Women,

I've got this "Dear Men" section over yonder on the blog and I've decided to give you ladies a section too.   Represent!  Stay tuned for some letters of your very own.

For now though, I just want to give a shout out to women everywhere (well, at least the ones reading this) and tell you: you rock.   To the single, dating, married, young, prime, seasoned, working, stay at home, retired, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, aunt, ambitious, low key, high maintenance, low maintenance, servant, women everywhere:

You are beautiful.

You have worth.

You are a child of God.

You rock.

Anna Pie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"So, Are You Ever Going To Have A Baby?"

This is sort of a follow up post to the "You're going to have your own kids, right?" post yesterday.  It's kind of a different variation of the same question, but one that we get asked sometimes nonetheless.  As I said yesterday, we are happy to field questions, especially if someone is really trying to understand our heart for this journey into foster care and adoption.

So, are we ever going to have a baby?

No clue.

Honestly, we have no idea.  If we do, it will either be because of a happy surprise or because we get to a point in our life when God says "ok, now thou shalt have a baby."  So, who knows?   Not us, that's for sure.

But for now, here are some of the reasons why we are not having a baby right now and instead are pursuing foster care and adoption as our first step towards parenthood:

1. Who says a couple has to have a biological child first, or at all?  Societal norms?  Eh, y'all know Trent and I aren't that into blindly following societal norms.

2.  Foster care and any form of adoption require that so much time, effort and attention be given to that child or those children who have just been plopped into your home with little or no context, history or knowledge of each other.  If we already had a biological child and then took on foster care, we could either end up in a situation where we weren't able to give enough attention to the foster children who desperately need it, or a situation where we were focusing so much on the foster kids' needs that our biological child was then not receiving enough of the parental attention.  By choosing foster care first, we can focus entirely on the children that come into our home.

3.  Whether we give birth to a baby after nine months or have a foster child placed in our home after a few hours' notice, Trent and I would still have to learn how to parent from scratch.  So why not learn about birth parent visits and court dates from scratch along with potty training, nap schedules and tripping over toys?

4. We feel personally called as a couple to pursue foster care and adoption and are intent on following through and obeying that call.  If God says go, we'll go.  If He says do, we'll do. This isn't about us. With that said, the "are we ever going to have a baby" question...doesn't really matter.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"You're Going To Have Your Own Kids, Right?"

This is a question we have heard quite a few times as we have embarked on this foster care journey.

You're going to have your own kids, right?  

After providing our answer several times, I think we have realized that what we are doing is kind of confusing to some people. They may not know much about foster care at all, or may think it is awesome but don't know much about it. Who knows why, but we have gotten some of the same confused looks and versions of the above question repeatedly. It is with zero annoyance or anger that I am writing this post.  Please ask us any questions you have.  But I would like to set the record straight:

1.  Every child that is with us will be treated with the same amount of love and care as if they were our own child, even if they are only with us for a short time.  Our job is to love, nurture, care for and help these children grow and heal.  We're going to pour every ounce of ourselves into that task whether it looks like a child will be with us for a few weeks, the rest of their life or nobody has a flippin' clue yet.

2.  This is our first step to building our family and having/finding our 'own' kids.  As we have said from the beginning, we are signing up to be "foster to adopt" parents, which means that we may have some placements that are just for a short time and we may have a placement that ends up turning into an adoption.  If you knew your child was going to go through terrible heartache, confusion, trauma and possible physical pain before they became your child, wouldn't you want to be there with them from the instant they are pulled from that heartache and given the chance to heal?  Wouldn't you want to be by their side and walk with them through the aftermath, creating a natural bridge into forever?  That's what we want.  We will most likely not get the forever part with some of the children we take care of.

But that is in God's hands.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Childhood I Wouldn't Trade For The World

Sometimes when I tell people I was homeschooled through the 8th grade, they look at me funny, as if they feel sorry for me.  Maybe they think I was cooped up doing self-study booklets for hours.  Maybe they think I didn't really get an education because I probably just did "school work" for two hours a day, in my pajamas no less.

They are wrong.  I wouldn't trade my childhood for the world. 

We had a first day of school and a last day of school.  We had a dedicated school room. We had a wake up time, breakfast time, chore time, school time and play time.  And we learned.  Oh did we ever learn...  The creativity of my mom was amazing.   I asked her once if she ever got tired of thinking up awesome ways to teach and engage us and she said "Oh I had tons more ideas than the things we actually got to do!" 

So, to the people who look at me funny and feel sorry for me for being homeschooled through my childhood years, I ask you...

Did your mom make fossils out of plaster and hide them in the creek bank so you could have a real live fossil hunt?

Did your mom organize the creation of a 3 foot wide, scale model, 3-D map of Texas with homemade playdough?

Did your mom oversee the construction of a giant dirt volcano in the garden and provide the baking soda and vinegar to make it errupt?

Did your mom make you and your siblings each a hand painted Hank The Cowdog t-shirt?

Did your mom hand draw on the big family calendar a trash can for trash days, a church for Sundays, music notes for homeschool choir days (it was a thing, and we were awesome), and milk jugs for grocery days?

Speaking of milk jugs, did your mom buy, use, wash and then hang various cartons and containers from the school room ceiling to teach cup, pint, quart, gallon?

But we didn't just learn from mom.  We learned from dad.   We learned from the neighbor kids.  We learned from living life out in the country with a free reign that would make some parents cringe these days.

We learned about animals, from our cows, goats, sheep, chickens, dog, cats and turkey that thought he was a calf born to our milk cow.

We learned to watch out for snakes and scorpions.

We learned that the best way to get on top of a round bale is with a running start and no fear.

We learned from barbed wire fences and mesquite thorns that a bit of pain isn't the end of the world.

We learned to work hard.

We learned that a lot of that hard work was expected of us without any direct pay or benefit from it.

We learned about anatomy from castrating sheep and skinning deer.

We learned about woodworking in dad's shop.

We learned about heights from peering over the unguarded edge of the barn attic.

We learned that a hay ring turned on its side and rocked back and forth is practically an amusement park ride.

We learned about plants and growth from our garden, where we each had our own plot to care for.

We learned to use our imagination as we played house, played school, played pioneer wagon train, played skip-the-cake-pan-across-the-creek.

We learned about a decade later that mom loved to look out the kitchen window and see her kids swinging back and forth in the tippy topmost branches of the cedar trees by the barn.

Yep.  I wouldn't trade my childhood for the world.

Monday, June 3, 2013

You Need A Savings Account! aka A Dead Car Battery Doesn't Have To Ruin Your Weekend

So...after church on Sunday, Trent really, really, really wanted fried chicken.  He didn't care where, but the fried chicken part was non-negotiable.  After getting ourselves said chicken...this happened....

No, not the fancy truck with the flat tire and AAA service dude.  Scooch over to the little red car in the middle of the truck sandwich.  I got in, turned the key and...nothing.  No sign of life in my car whatsoever.  Apparently Raising Cane's was the place to have car trouble on Sunday!  

My battery was a goner.  Trent looked at the date on it and discovered it was five years old, which I then learned was a life well lived for a car battery.   Two rescue friends, two and a half hours and $180 later, I had myself a new 7 year life battery and a running car.  

And I was juuuust fiiiine about all of it.  

You see folks, there was a time not that long ago when having to suddenly drop $180 on anything would have ruined my weekend.  It would have stressed me out, freaked me out and bummed me out. But now, we have this thing called a healthy savings account balance.  

Oh, we need four new tires all at the same time?   Happy trails.

Car battery totally dies and have to get a new one?  Start your engines.

Husband gets really sick with sinus junk and has to pay three digits for doctor and lots of medicine?   Get well soon babe.

No sweat.  No biggee.  We've got the money stashed away for these very purposes and it's readily available when we need it.  I cannot tell you what a relief this is.  And I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping a savings account.  When things are tight, this is hard.  But here is what I recommend: try.   Even if it is $10 per paycheck that can go to a savings account, do it.  Even if in a few months you have to buy a new tire or a bunch of medicine, that's at least $40 or so less than you would have had to spend.  

Which brings me to an important point: If you work hard to put money into savings and then end up having to actually use it for a legitimate purpose, don't let it bother you that you had to take some out. That is what it is for!  I struggled with this for a while.  We worked hard to gradually build up a nice balance in the account and then the four new tires at once scenario happened.  $400 of our hard earned and diligently saved money, gone.  I kept telling myself "This is what this money is for Anna.  No reason to stress about it because it was there when we needed it and this expense did not throw off our regular cash flow, end up on a credit card or make us eat beans for two weeks.  It's oookaaaay."  And now?  Yeah it stinks to have to deplete savings, but life costs money and since we've got some money stashed away, I don't sweat it when we have to use it.  

So, do you have a savings account?  Do you pout when you have to actually use money from it, like I used to?  Have you ever gone to eat fried chicken and ended up spending almost $200?