Monday, August 25, 2014

The Pitfalls Of Parenting Solely From Your Own Strengths

One evening a few weeks ago, Trent and I found ourselves each with some errands we wanted to run.  Mine were of the Target variety and his were of the Home Depot variety.  We decided to split up.

"How about we each take our respective kid?" Trent said.

We paused and sort of giggled about that phrase but it's kind of true.  You see, if you had to break it down, Sister is "mine" and Brother is "Trent's".  This stems from the very, very beginning when they were placed in our home.  Trent didn't know how to care for a baby.  I did.  I didn't know how to engage a toddler or work on behavior and instruction.  Trent did.  Plus I had my hands full with said baby so that simply left him with the toddler, a settlement he gladly accepted.  In those first few weeks of chaos and stress, we just had to make it work as best we could and this resulted in a funky his and hers kids setup.

Though nowadays someone who didn't know better would look at us and assume we know what we're doing all around, some of the results of that early split up parenting still linger and they're not all good.   While I have a deep connection to our daughter and Trent to our son, the vice versa doesn't ring as true.  I have posted facebook statuses about literally hiding from Sister around the corner in the kitchen and Trent has had to kick me out of the house to go to Starbucks before because baby girl will not calm down unless she is in my arms or momentarily forgets I exist.  Nobody else will suffice if I am present.  Meanwhile, Brother will mind Trent pretty well but actively defy me, sometimes while laughing at me.  So when he throws his food or cup on the floor or kicks me in the chest during a diaper change, Trent often swoops in to set him straight, and it works.  However, that swooping and correcting just perpetuates the split up issue here since he continues to see Trent as the authority, not me.  Trent's suggestion is for me to play with him more and spend more one on one time with him so he can gain some connection and respect...pretty hard to do though with a one-year-old plastered to me.  

So maybe we can't win at this point.  Maybe not right now with how young they are. These are the connections formed and skills relied on from the crazy beginning of our time together when we were just doing our best.  It's on our brain though and we shall see where things go.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 7

It won't suffice to claim good intentions.  Saying "I meant well" is not going to cut it.  Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible.  It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say "Oh? Were You serious about all that?"

Interrupted - When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker


Me: Sister's first real word is "uh-oh".
Mom: Ah, a woman of reality.


GPS Lady:  In five hundred feet, turn left.
Brother:  Nooooo.
GPS Lady:  In a quarter mile, keep right.
Brother: Uuuugh.


Brother: Wha dat?
Mama: That's a tree.
Brother: Wha dat?
Daddy: That's a car.
Brother: Wha dat?
Mama: That's your shoe.
Brother: Wha dat?
Daddy: That's the dog.
Brother: Wha dat?
Mama: That's my patience fleeing for its life...


Texts with a friend the day after the court hearing

Steph: Thinking of y'all this morning and praying for your little family.  You never know what you're capable of until you try and I love seeing how the Lord has called, equipped & grown you guys as you have been faithful.
Me: Thanks friend. Life is weird.
Steph: Truer words have never been spoken.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Happy Birthday & Heart Dump

Well, we made it through "birthday season".  Our kids were born a year and two weeks apart which meant a whole two weeks of birthday on the brain.  Their parent visit for each of their birthday weeks was moved to their actual birthday so their mom got to see them.

I embarked on the adventure of baking cupcakes to send to their parent visit and to daycare the day of Brother's birthday.  Newsflash: I don't bake.  And I was apparently ill equipped for cupcake creation, such that my handy husband had to step in and DIY a hand mixer using his drill and a spatula.  It worked.

The cupcakes turned out wonky looking and sources reported to us that they caused tantrums to be thrown by Brother at both the visit with their mom and at daycare because he wanted all the cupcakes to himself.  Cupcakes for  Oh well.  

We had a combined birthday party for the kids since their birthdays are indeed so close together and they are too little yet to feel jipped that they didn't get their own party.   We had 31 people at our house, not counting ourselves.  We and the kids were showered with love (and gifts!) from the many people that have been our "village" along the way.  It was pretty amazing.   And I paid money for birthday cakes rather than try to bake them. I mean, let's be realistic here folks.  

And now, a heart dump, aka many random thoughts...

1. My family is going to the beach this weekend, every single one of us.  This has not happened (beach or elsewhere) since 2005, when we were the coolest kids ever to walk the earth:

2.  Dear Church Nursery Workers,
I love you.  Thank you for cheerfully peeling my screaming children off of me and embarking on the thankless task of convincing them that I am actually, in fact, not leaving them forever, while I slip out of the room and get to go sit still for an entire hour, which some weeks, let's be honest here, is my main motivation for putting on nice clothes and going to church.  
Love always, yours truly, with all sincerity and gratitude,

3. Texas is hot.

4.  So is my husband.  

5. Apparently this little blog of mine really reaches some of you folks out there and touches hearts, strikes nerves, you name it.  I've gotten several comments recently from people in real life about how much they enjoy reading these posts, hearing what's going on in our family, learning about our foster world.   Dear readers, thank you for this encouragement and thank you for reading.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Six Months In - Reflections On Foster Parenting So Far

We've officially been at this for half a year. Which means that Sister has been in foster care for more of her life than not...

Trent often jokes "Texas was crazy to give us kids. What were they thinking?  We don't have a clue what we're doing."  While we have what sorta kinda looks like a clue nowadays, we sure didn't in the beginning.  That first month with the kids was hands down the hardest of our life together so far.  Sometimes I think back to that first bitter cold evening when the kids were brought to our house and I see the situation as outsiders see all this: crazy.  Two very sick, shocked, tired babies were plunked down in our living room, we signed a bunch of papers and were left alone to just...figure things out.  The stress level was high and so was the cluelessness.  But, so was the support.  We couldn't have made it through those first weeks without the help, advice and physical presence of our parents, friends and our church family.  Our village stepped up and we couldn't be more thankful.

So here we are, half a year later.  It has flown by.  I am amazed by how much these kids have grown and we are blessed every single day by their smiles, silly quirks and incredibly sweet hugs. We have good days and bad days.  Heck, we have good hours and bad hours.  Most of the time we rock along day to day like a normal family and only every once in a while do I get a little low, remembering that we aren't.

Things I'd Do Differently

Get kids' rooms set up and personalized within a month
We've had these kids for half a year and only in the past few weeks did this:

And this:

I know these kids are so young that they don't really feel a need to have their own personalized space, but still.  I wish we had given it to them earlier than this.

Send pictures, artwork, etc to parent visits at least every other week
There's a fine line here between documenting the growth and experiences of the child while they are away from the birth parent and inadvertently boasting about the quick, healthy growth and the exciting experiences of the child...with the foster parents...that they otherwise likely would not have had. Will the birth parent be happy to have these interim pictures of their children or will they just be saddened to see their kids doing fun things with another family?  (Note: these pictures would NOT include the foster family members, just the kids, or else it would tip over solidly into the boasting arena)  Nevertheless, I have stunk at this.  I ordered a few prints of the kids at Easter, sent one or two scribbly pieces of Brother's "artwork", but that's it.  I should have been better about this and I intend to order prints sampling their time with us so far and send them to a visit soon.

Allow myself to get angry
I've tried my best to go with the flow and be a good, tame foster parent this whole time, but there have been a few times I have found myself squelching anger that I should have just let ring true. When our schedule gets moved around yet again.  When we get conflicting information and don't know what to rely on. Also I think I try too hard to be a cheerleader for their mom in my head and heart when that is not actually my job.  When she says or does things that sting, I can allow myself to privately get annoyed.  When she makes a big deal to the social worker that Brother throws fits at lady, he's two...he throws fits everywhere.  When she says from the witness stand in court that she has in the past doubted the suitability of their care because, among other things, "one time at a visit there weren't wipes in the diaper bag" lady, you can bring a whole diaper bag if you wish, complete with wipes and whatever else your mama heart desires for your children...CPS would probably consider that a stellar show of initiative.   We don't find ourselves running low on iffy, sometimes completely crappy situations these days and, while I don't need to pop off immaturely at anybody involved, I don't need to feel like I have to constantly be all rainbows and sunshine about it in private.

Use "that's confidential" as my go-to response when people want nitty gritty details
Few people know any details about this case, why the kids came into care, how the mom is truly doing, etc.  Very few people know the couple whopper aspects of the case that could make or break it.  Even so, I fear I have overshared at times when faced with curious questions, people just wanting to understand what's going on.  I should have practiced my canned responses in the mirror I guess, in order to be able to say them with confidence when needed and leave it at that.  "That's confidential" or "We're not really supposed to share those details" would suffice.  We're really not.  Texas says so...

Things I've Learned

Don't count on social workers to do what they say. Follow up.  
The original investigative social worker who removed the kids and brought them to us was supposed to file the paperwork to get the daycare subsidy in process.  She didn't.  The kids' caseworker said during our June meeting, during a conversation about Brother's speech, that she would refer him to Early Childhood Intervention for a speech evaluation.  She didn't.  Social workers mean well, but they are overloaded.

Take everything with a grain of salt and pencil it in.  It will likely change. 
We heard "Their mom is doing really, really well. I can really see these kids going home" one month and the next month sat in a Permanency Conference that revealed this case is not at all as clear cut as we thought.  Our hearing time got moved the day of.  Meetings with the kids' social worker have had to be rescheduled on occasion.  You just never know.  You just gotta roll with the punches and be flexible.

We are really cut out for this
Funny how God leads you to something through doubt and fear along the way, only for you to realize it is exactly what you are supposed to be doing.  Sometimes "right where you're supposed to be" is actually a weird place to be.  Really weird.  Taking care of a stranger's kids full time while that person is trying to correct some iffy choices or just weird.  It's not natural.  And yet somehow it comes completely naturally to us.

We have explained to some folks that there is "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge" in this foster care arena.  The head knowledge is the ability to root for the birth parent(s) rather than judge them, the willingness to roll with the changes and logistical requirements, the understanding that the ultimate goal of all this is reunification until it's proven that it cannot be.  The heart knowledge is the humanity, the worry, the struggle, the realization that the heart might break.  The heart knowledge would come easy to anyone in this situation.  Who wouldn't worry, wonder and struggle?  The head knowledge...not so much.  As I mentioned above, the situations foster parents find themselves in fly in the face of the way families should naturally operate. So how does the head deal with and reconcile the craziness?  Or can it?  Somehow we find ourselves able to and can only chalk it up to sitting in the palm of God's hand, right where we're supposed to be.