Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When He Cries For Mama But Doesn't Mean Me

Monday evenings are rough sometimes.

The kids have their weekly visit with their mom on Monday mornings and I think Brother gets a little jumbled up and emotionally confused by it, being whisked away from daycare in the middle of the morning to spend an hour with mama in a playroom, only to be soon whisked back to daycare.  It seems to make him a little fragile and melty later in the day.   Either that or he is just not a fan of Mondays.

Yesterday we were traipsing in the door from the car and everyone was more or less happy.  Brother's daily paper from daycare said "great day!"  I set him down.  I put up the baby gate that has crossed our kitchen doorway since he arrived.

He lost it.

I don't know why the baby gate did it and it doesn't matter.  He melted to the floor and began screaming.  At first I thought it was just a random tantrum and I strategically refrained from hovering or paying much attention, while putting Sister in her highchair with crackers and calmly reciting "tantrums do not yield results, Brother", etc.  This went on for minutes and minutes as I tuned it out.  Then I realized I needed to tune in.

This was not just a tantrum.

A tantrum involves flailing, rolling around, flopping backwards and hitting his head.  He was laying more or less still.

A tantrum involves hitting and scratching if you go near him.  He let me touch him.

A tantrum involves wordless screaming and hollering.  He was crying "mamaaa mamaaa mamaaa".

I realized he was not crying for me...

I went to my boy as my heart was breaking for him.  I stooped next to him as he laid on the floor, then carefully picked him up.  I held him in my arms, expecting to be scratched, but he was still.  I rubbed his back and swayed back and forth as he cried and cried and cried for one mama while another mama held him.   I told him I love you over and over and prayed peace and calm for his little soul.  He gulped for air. I gulped back tears.  And there we stayed for a little while, two hearts breaking on the dining room floor.

Slowly we found calm again.  Slowly we found peace.  And apple juice.  And animal crackers.  And finally, a smile.

I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you've done all you can do
And you can't cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won't let go

-Rascal Flatts-

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Letter To Our Foster Kids' Mom

Dear ......,

I realized that I know a lot about your kids now and honestly a lot about you, from social workers, probably more than you think a stranger should know about you.  And I am just that, a stranger. You don't know me and you don't even know who is taking care of your kids.  I hope that can change, when the time is right.  I was scared of this at first, but I hope we can meet face to face at some point so you can lay eyes on one of the random humans that have been charged with caring for your children while you take care of things you need to do.

I want you to know that your children are indeed cared for well and that your children are wonderful individuals, with so much personality and so many smiles.  They have been a delight to us in these few months and my heart aches for you that you are not getting to see all the smiles and milestones except for an hour once a week. They don't all fit in that hour, not even close, and I know that must be really hard.

Girl, this parenting stuff is a run for our money huh?  Oof.  I mean, tantrums and diapers and throw up and wakeful nights and simply being two on one, outnumbered by little human beings a fraction of your size that somehow pack a wallop in the stress-you-out department.   I have had so many evenings at home with them that I somehow got to the end of by myself and truly wondered how I did it.  And other evenings where I had someone there to help me and told them I couldn't have gotten through it without them there.   I think of you during these times.  Always.  I don't look down on you as someone who couldn't keep it together as a mom. I just look at you as a mom...because there are times I haven't been able to keep it together as a mom, times I've lost it, blown it, wanted to give up.  You're someone else in the trenches of parenthood, just a different trench, perhaps a harder trench at the moment, with social workers and lawyers firing from all sides.

I'm rooting for you.  I really am.  And I care about you even though we haven't met.  I know you like to change the kids' clothes when you have visits so I really try to plan cute outfits for the diaper bag and include a couple to choose from so you can mix and match.  I want you to have that moment of control, of mothering, of loving and caring for your children.  I'm working on getting some pictures printed for you of Brother picking up Easter eggs.  The kids have loved the presents you have sent back with them. The days-of-the-week socks are a hoot and the Easter bunnies are a hit.  The blue one has some spaghetti sauce on it at the moment...

Hang in there.  We can do this.


Friday, April 25, 2014



Taking the break that I didn't really get last week after all

Wondering how exactly we made it through tax season with two kids and

Grateful that we somehow did

Realizing that parenting in this slowed down schedule is going to be a blast

Looking forward to going to Jazzercise tomorrow for the first time since February 4th

Coughing up oodles of gunk that is finally making its way out of my lungs, for the third and hopefully last time this spring

Perusing our Easter photos for the five billionth time and

Smiling at how adorable our kids are

Excited for our first ever weekend at home together as a family that I don't have to work

Planning to make more time for blogging

What Are We Going To Do If They Go Home?

Text conversation while Trent was on a mission trip to Galveston a few weekends ago:

Trent: Their presents aren't really beachy, just something he can throw and chase and something she can chew on.
Me: Hehe, awesome.
Trent: I was really hoping to find a real islandy like drum for her to beat on.
Me: You're a good dad.  :-)
Trent: Whether I am or not, I'm in love with two little ones who I miss so much that I wander the Strand looking for presents.
Me: You are.  I'm sure of it.
Trent: Well, I'm hooked
Me: What are we going to do if they go home?
Trent: Cry like babies and let God carry them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Dresses And Egg Shells

There's something about Easter finery that gets to me each year...   Why do we dress up so much for Easter?  Really, why?

I have always inwardly chuckled at the families that show up at church week in and week in out in a hodge podge of clothing across the members, then on Easter, whoo doggy, watch out.  That family is matchy matched, coordinated, bright, festive, and a photo opp waiting to happen.   I always wonder, who are we dressing up for?  The risen Lord?  Or our own camera?  Frankly I'm not sure that the risen Lord cares a whole bunch about hair bows, seersucker and gingham.

And yet...

Last Sunday, the Futral family arrived at church at about 8:17 am looking fresh and festive for Easter.  We donned the Easter finery, springy and more or less coordinated, as we also donned smiles and joy for the day.  We had yummy brunch at church, taught Brother how to put Easter eggs in his bucket and took a ton of great pictures.  We became the stereotypical Easter family at which I had previously chuckled on an annual basis.

And yet...

Sister's adorable gingham dress and silver sandals dressed up a sweet baby girl who had just had the third out of four really rough, restless nights of fever from an ear infection.

Daddy's nice light green shirt hid a terrible ache in his back from sleeping half of the night propped up on the sofa with baby girl on his chest, since that's the only way she'd sleep.

Mama's navy and white polka dots leaned to the right a bit as she babied a hurting muscle in her side, strained from two weeks of coughing fits.  Her pink lipstick quickly wore off on the lid of the Starbucks cup she clutched as tightly as the infant in her other arm.

Brother...was just content to get chocolate all over his face and bright blue polo shirt...

On the outside, we looked fresh and festive.  On the inside, we felt like a mess.  (Well, Brother was a mess on the outside too I suppose.)  The nice clothes were just an Easter egg shell.

Jesus did not arise from the grave on the third day for polka dots and polo shirts.  He rose for the souls that wear them.  And the souls that can't afford them.  And the souls that are a mess underneath them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Can We Talk About The Money Part Of Foster Care Again?

The whole money part of foster care is just weird to me.

About the WIC/food stamps card...
I feel for people who are on WIC or food stamps for real and the judgment they must perceive, whether it's real or not, in the grocery store line.   When I'm running my separate transactions for each individual kid's card and items covered, the whole time I'm thinking "Argh, this is taking longer since I have to split it up...can't this machine think faster...I'll just stare at it to avoid eye contact....omg, how ridiculous does it look to pull a WIC card out of a Coach wallet for crying out loud...they probably think I'm abusing the system since they don't know I'm a foster parent...maybe I can somehow work into conversation with the cashier that I'm using this for foster kids in my care...crap, there's a bottle of wine in my purchase...they probably think I'm using state benefits to buy alcohol...someone should tell them that is entirely impossible...the only things I can get are formula, baby food, cheese, eggs, milk, bread and fruit...healthy stuff ok? and only certain specifically delineated brands, types and quantities...gah, I'm sorry ok!  Oh good, the card is done processing....duck and run."

Meanwhile, the people behind me in line are probably actually just thinking "Oh Prince George looks cute on that magazine cover...the Kardashians did what??...hmmm, do I want to impulse buy some gum?..."


About the monthly reimbursement...
People say a lot of foster parents do it for the money.   Actual foster parents tell you that's not possible because the money you get is not nearly enough to profit on.  I'm here to tell you that any day a $1,432.20 check arrives in our mailbox is an eye popping, out of the ordinary day, fo sho.   We've gotten two reimbursement checks for the kids so far, one for the partial month of February ("only" $1,108), then the above referenced amount for all of March.

...so much money...

If we hadn't had so much generous help at the onset of this placement from people in our life, we would need every bit of it to cover our start up costs for car seats and all the other stuff we bought right at the start.  But thanks to the giant  gift card from my office, gift cards from other folks, some money from parents, etc, we were not out of pocket much at all.

Due to a slip-up by the original social worker who removed the kids from their mom, our paperwork for the daycare subsidy took a month and a half to process instead of the typical two weeks, so we are out of pocket about $1,500 for that first chunk of daycare.  We bought a real crib for Brother so he wouldn't have to sleep in a Pack N Play anymore. We bought them clothing.  We want to get him a cute little kid chair to sit in to watch tv so that maybe he won't stand 3 inches from the screen.   Besides that stuff? We'll just have our ongoing food and diaper expenses, clothes here and there.

What are we supposed to do with the rest of the money???  Are there some kind of giant kid raising expenses out there that we are withholding from our children?

In the meantime, we have a separate bank account for the reimbursement money and we'll transfer out of it to ourselves as needed for their expenses.  If we end up with a surplus, we will save it.  If the kids end up staying with us forever, we'll have it available to benefit them later as well.  If they go home to their mom, we'll use the money for start up costs for the next foster placement we get, since we could be buying school supplies and soccer cleats next time instead of car seats, who knows.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mick Swagger Wagon

So, once upon a time recently, we bought a station wagon...after driving almost to Dallas to look at said station wagon, vowing to NOT purchase it on that trip.   We intentionally did not drive the car we'd be trading in, so that we wouldn't be tempted to make the deal that night.  

We made the deal that night.  And Trent drove back the next day and handed over his turbo charged Subaru WRX for a turbo charged, diesel VW Jetta Sportwagen (with an e).  He has been singing Andrew Peterson's "Family Man" ever since.  

Driving back from almost Dallas that night late (goodness gracious buying a car takes forever), I had the following text conversation with my baby sister:

Me: So we, uh, kinda sorta bought...a station wagon...
Abby: BAHAHAHA WHAT??!?!  You mean one of the old school, wooden sided swagger wagons?
Me:  Noooo.  But now it will officially be named the Swagger Wagon.

I read the conversation to Trent and promptly added that I shall call it Mick Swagger.  In our sleepy, almost home, being-an-adult-is-tiring-sometimes state we decided Mick Swagger Wagon was the most perfect, most hilarious name ever in the history of station wagons and laughed so hard we were no longer sleepy.

Therefore, I introduce to you, Mick Swagger:  

Mick is a TDI wagen (with an e, remember) that gets 42 miles per gallon, has lots of cargo and backseat space, and will supposedly run till the end of time since it's diesel.   Two thirds of the roof is glass, through which Brother stares and says "whooaaa".  The VW key flips open from the push of a button, making me want to say "on guard" and start a VW key sword fight.  Finally, Mick came with Yakima cross bars on top, juuuuuust right for toting home Brother's new crib.

So there you have it.  Another chapter in the story of our transformation into hipster parents trying to change the world through foster care and clean diesel. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Post About Marriage, For Lack Of A More Creative Title

This is a post about marriage...as the title of said post indicates.  Gimme a break, I couldn't think of a more creative title after working 70+ hours this week.  Blargh.  

Last weekend I worked most of Saturday, which left Trent on kid duty for quite a while. Nevertheless, when I popped home for lunch he said he hoped the kids napped at the same time because he wanted to work on a surprise for me.   A surprise?  The man had already bought me flowers and been regularly pep talking me as I began to close in on the end of my rope tax season.   I gobbled my fajita lunch that he had made and headed back to the office.  

When I came home and walked through the back door into the den, my exclamation of amazement woke up my napping sister.  You see folks, our den/back room/"house #2" has been an absolute disaster since the kids arrived.  We baby gate off the kitchen doorway to keep Brother in the front area of the house.  Less for him to get into and less space for us to keep track of him in.  So the den became a kid-free war zone of car seat boxes, diaper boxes and a bunch of stuff we had been given or amassed in advance that we did not need for this particular foster placement.   Cue tax season, seminary, craziness and...it all just sat there.

Trent cleaned the whole den.  

He sorted stuff, took stuff to sheds, broke down boxes for recycling and made a nice neat area of kid items that we need to further sort through and either store properly or get rid of. 

Days later we had the following text conversation.  (And herein lies the point of my post, finally.)

Me: You have no idea how much the clean den means to me.
Trent:  Yes I do.  That's why I did it. 

For some reason, I was floored by his response.  He's right.  He knew all along what he was doing, that he was doing it just for me.  That was the whole point.  Me saying he had no idea how much it meant to me was not at all correct.  He knew exactly how much it meant to me. 

That's why he did it. 

Cleaning is no fun.  He could have spent that sleeping-kids time studying or reading or taking a snooze himself after a whole morning of being super dad. But he knew that clean den would brighten my day every single time I came through the back door.  And it has.  

What do you know would bring joy to your spouse, even if it's not super fun for you?

P.S. Can you guess what my love language is?  :-)

Friday, April 4, 2014

There Are Young Crazy Foster People Out There Like Us

Before we got the kids, we had made plans for a Saturday in February to meet up with some highschool friends of mine half(ish)way between our two towns to chat about...foster care and adoption.  When kids showed up on February 5th, we altered the plan and the aforementioned friends just came all the way to our house.

John and Ashley and I go way back.  John and I went as friends to my highschool Junior formal...

Look at those lil teenage babieeees.

Also, we three all sat near each other in Driver's Ed, where John passed the time by throwing paper balls into Ashley's hair.   Fast forward a few several years and...they got married.  :-)

So Ashley seems to be proof that if a boy is teasing you it means he likes you...

Folks left them alone for the typical duration of time when it is apparently appropriate to just let married people be married people.  Then came...the kid question.

Here's the thing though about John and Ashley.  They're a lot like me and Trent in that their gut feeling response was "What if there is a different path to family than the norm of having a baby? What if we can provide a home for some kids that are already out there needing one?"

After kinda losing touch for like, oh, seven years, John facebook messaged me to say adoption had weaseled its way into their conversations.  Ashley messaged me to say she stalks my blog and feels like we should be BFFs because my writing reflected her same thoughts and she is aware that sounds really weird and out of the blue because we haven't been in touch in like, oh, seven years.  I reminded her about the paper balls in her hair and assured her she and John had not been forgotten by me.  Frankly I was stoked to hear from them at all, especially about a topic so near and dear to us.  I was excited to find camaraderie and kindred spirits and messaged them back with gusto.

There are other people out there like us!  People that question the norm.  People in their 20s that make a choice, a first choice to pursue foster care or adoption as a means to grow their family.

So they came to our house, witnessed foster care in action and picked our brains.  Well, Ashley and I discussed the nitty gritty of foster care licensing in the kitchen while John and Trent (both seminary students) solved all the world's problems in the living room.  We talked, we passed kids around, we ate the first real dinner I had cooked since becoming a mom. (Turns out people still bring you meals even if you suddenly have an 18 month old and 6 month old at home instead of a newborn.)

After months of research, prayer, discussion and searching, John and Ashley have begun the process of becoming foster parents.  They have embarked into the land of home study visits and paperwork.  They're learning how to field the questions from people that think they are nuts. They're preparing their hearts and home for little ones that need them.  They're answering God's call for their life.  And they're blogging about their journey and life in general at Our Shoe Closet.

This is good.  This is really, really good.