Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Growing, Attaching, and Surviving

Growing, Attaching, and Surviving

These words describe the three places I’m in with each of our three boys right now.  If someone would have told me just a few years ago that at 30, Justin and I would have 3 teen/preteen boys in our family, I would have said you were crazy. This season in our life has been a challenge, even painful at times, but also so fulfilling and life giving.

I am so excited for what’s to come for this young man. In the beginning of our journey together, he (at times) drove me crazy with his sarcasm (his defense- keeping everyone at arms length), his need to be right (his fight for some control), and his chatter (if I’m quiet, you might see who I really am).  I now enjoy his questions, sense of humor, and desire to show you just how smart he really is- and actually believing it for himself too! It makes my heart smile that his question “Do you actually love me?” has turned to a statement “You guys really love me, huh?”  He is beginning to believe that the corrections, the re-dos, the conversations are not meant to criticize, but to challenge. He is GROWING.

I feel like I have always had a bond with this young man.  He is strong, but sensitive; he is silly, but deep; he is trusting, but guarded.  I love that we can hang out together and be comfortable without having to say a single word, or go from talking about music to our deepest fears in 2 minutes flat. I cannot imagine our family without this great kiddo as a part of it somehow. We are ATTACHING.


Friends, in true honesty, I am struggling in this season with this young man and I have to remind myself- he is struggling too.  We have had multiple ER visits, lots of deep breathing, and approximately 3 days in the past 5 months without a meltdown of some sort- and he totally knows me well enough to push my buttons.  We have had weeks at a time without a single positive interaction.  Then every once in a while, he has an awesome day and I get a glimpse of the kid he would be/could be, if we could just get through the junk that the world has dumped on him. We are SURVIVING.             

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A moment with D

So now that I'm back at work and the boys are back at school, I want to take some time and reflect on some of the moments I've had with my boys this summer. For people who read my blog, but don't know us personally, we now have 3 foster sons (D-14, E-14, and A-12). D and E came to us this summer through some definitely God-ordained circumstances. This summer, being full time mom to 3 tween/teen boys has by far been one of the greatest, but most rewarding things I've ever done. I've grown and learned so much about God, being a parent, and about myself (like I could never be a stay at home mom- God bless you all).

My moment with D: Last weekend D and I got to spend some time alone together (alone time with a kid is a precious commodity at our house). We were cleaning up after breakfast and I asked him to put up the milk. In his best teenage attitude he exclaimed "Gosh- I will!" * A little insight into our home- there are 2 things we DO NOT tolerate under any circumstance- disrespect and intentional physical harm to others.* In our home, we do re-dos in which parent and child or child-child must replay the scenario until we can all do it respectfully. This particular morning, it took us about 7 times to get it right and immediately after resulted in D storming off to the front porch. After a little cool down time, I ventured outside to see him crying. He immediately said "you're mad at me!" At that moment I realized that this kid has never had discipline without anger attached. I could have engaged into a power struggle, but I (by the grace of God) realized that this kid needed to know that discipline shows that I do love him and care about the person he is becoming.  It was amazing to see the realization and almost disbelief on his face- I'm still not sure he buys it, but I think we are slowly but surely breaking down some walls.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just a foster family

So, multiple times this week I have been asked why Justin and I don’t adopt kids that we foster. While we have many friends who have adopted, which is such an amazing thing, it’s just not where our heart is. As foster parents, especially to teens, we are not traditional parents- we are mentors, counselors, teachers, advice givers. For some kids, we are the stepping stone to finding their “forever family”, for some the place of healing on their way back home, for some a small piece of their big picture. We have days in which we really don’t like our kids, but rely on the love that God has given us to pour into them. We have days of breakthroughs and great joy. We have days in which we feel more like professionals than parents- strategizing, analyzing, documenting, etc. I mean what parent keeps behavior logs on their children or write down events that preceded all 15 meltdowns of the day. It’s kinda weird, but it’s what our kids need. It’s what we need too- God has put (at least in me- I can’t speak for Justin) a scientific mind that craves to discover what makes our kids tick and then go with it, whether it’s martial arts, talking in one of my many personas, animal care, or even screaming along to some Lincoln Park (E’s favorite). It is so fulfilling to find the thing that works to calm them, to increase their confidence, to connect, or to get them to actually talk to you- it’s a part of what God has made me to do. I hope that in the years to come many children will pass through our lives and maybe some will even come back to visit as a part of our “unofficial”, “no paperwork required” forever family.        

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The boiling point...

So, let me preface this by saying- this post will mainly be me complaining about problems in the foster care system so you've been warned.

Long story short, my Saturday consisted of being beat up while driving a vehicle, police involvement, and spending 6 hours in the ER.

We have been seeing some drastic changes in behavior in T over the past month (threatening family members with weapons, $800 in property damage, and strange behaviors like growling and barking at strangers) and have been requesting help (through regular respite, in home therapy, and a behavior coach).  While I understand that social workers, GALs, and therapists are busy, continuing to get "we are working on it" as a response begins to get frustrating week after week. I wonder if these supports were put in place 2 months ago when we started asking, if we would be at the place we are now. 

We always expected being foster parents to high risk kids would be difficult for us, but we didn't really stop and think of how it affects them.

It feels really unfair to have a child scared to be in his home because of a sibling, having nightmares, and anxiety attacks at school. Home should be a safe place, a respite.

On the other hand, it is also unfair to expect a child exposed to extreme domestic violence to behave in a safe way. When all you've seen is violence, how are you supposed to react to anger, frustration, and fear? When you have been in residential and day treatment settings where when you get out of control someone controls your body for you (through restraints, safe rooms, etc.); how are you supposed to be able to control yourself (since foster parents are required to be hands off). I don't understand why I have the training to restrain kids safely in the public schools, but when it comes to my own home, I can't even truly defend myself or protect the other kids in my home by safely removing a child to a neutral place. 

We feel like we truly cannot help both of these kids without hurting one or the other and that's a really sucky place to be...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going back to the start...

Today was one of those days in foster parenting where I sometimes question why God put this desire in my heart... a slap in the face, three  police officers, and home destruction can make you question "Are you sure about this God!".

So we have had a new kiddo in our house for a little over a month now. He is such a scared little boy with lots of anger; he has traveled from home to home; facility to facility; from rejection to rejection, but sometimes that piece of his story is so hard to remember. T has flat out told us- "I know you guys are just gonna give up on me like every other family has!" This little boy has lost so much in his short life and wow do we have a LOT of trust to build. I have to keep in my mind, every meltdown, every hit/kick/punch is proving to him that we won't give up on him, that we care about him. Not to say that I like him every minute of the day. Sometimes being a foster parent (and I'm sure a bio parent too) really shows me what a sacrifice God makes everyday when he chooses to love us in spite of us, when we discipline and set boundaries because we love, when we let someone less powerful than us hurt us.

This experience has also taught me a ton about growth and how God can change us. Since we have had our kids more long term, I think J and I sometimes forget where we started on our journey as a foster family. I remember when A first moved in with us and J thought they would never have a connection- now they have such a neat bond as we have earned A's trust! It is almost comical to watch how A looks up to J and seeks his approval- fist bumps, jump hugs, and 'right man?'s.

If you can, pray for our family- I know God has called us to love tough kids, but some days it is a daunting task. We are so thankful to have people supporting us even when we struggle.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Year of Discomfort

So I stopped blogging for quite awhile this year- mainly because we were blessed to have a second foster son added to our family for a time.  The hard thing was this child, who was adopted about a year ago by some of our friends, was a child brought into our care by a major disruption in their family.  I didn't feel like it was right to write about us with everything going on so...

Long story short, this has been one of the most challenging years in my life, in my marriage, and in our new family. I have also been blessed in so many ways this year- I have been a part of two amazing groups of women who have challenged me, allowed me to be vulnerable, and even listened to me complain about my crazy life. So in the spirit of vulnerability here was our 2012.

2012 started with Justin and I in marriage counseling- we knew that if we were going to parent kids from trauma, there were a LOT of things we needed to work on.  I can't speak for Justin, but for me that period of challenge and change was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Through some hard work and some tears, I was able to see how my background and my personality had really turned me into a people pleasing person who had really lost herself in everyone else.  I also discovered that when you get healthy and set boundaries, it makes some people mad!  (and I am now OK with that!)

So 2 weeks after our last counseling session, we were licensed foster parents.  We really questioned if the timing was right, but God told us GO! A few days later we met our current kiddo- A.  A quirky and hurting 10 year old boy.  (You can read about some of our first adventures with A in previous posts!)

It's hard to think that we have only been parents about 7 months- it's definitely been trial by fire!

We have been to more appointments than I could imagine... we have been told that a child would most likely never live independently as an adult... we have been through (multiple) 4-5 hour meltdowns... we have had runaways... and police and firetrucks at our house

but through all of that, we have seen joy... love... attachment... growth!

Through this foster care journey, we have really changed so much.  We have gone from saying "I don't know if we can do this" to "I cannot imagine not parenting these kids".  We are now working on our therapeutic foster care license (which is pretty much just a little more training) and we hope to be a healing place for kids on their way to find their forever homes.

Yesterday we got to meet our new foster son who will be moving into our home in a few weeks- T is a 9 year old boy who is currently living in a residential facility.  He is such a cool kid who is so full of life!  His therapist emailed us after our visit- he wants to live with us, but he doesn't feel like he will ever be good enough to get to live with us.  That absolutely breaks my heart that this boy would feel that he needs to "shine himself up" to be deserving of love and a family.  It's such a picture of what so many of us (myself included) say to God.

We don't know what 2013 has in store, but we know God is at work within our family- whatever that will look like this year!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I am a foster mom... and so can you!

Sorry- just had to reference Stephen Colbert sometime in this blog!
God has been asking me to write lately, but I don't feel like I can express what he wants so here I go anyway. The past few weeks I have been challenged, stretched, and rewarded as a mom. (By the way it still feels weird to call myself a mom and at times I don't feel I have "earned" the title in my 9 weeks of parenting!) I am reading an amazing book with an amazing group of women called The Gifts of Imperfection. In this book Ms. Brown's simple words, "we can't give our children something we don't have" really caught me. A few short months ago I would not have been able to give my (foster) son courage, security, self worth, or even acceptance of self, all of which are things he TRULY needs! I can now see God using me to pour these things into his life. A few weeks ago A attended Royal Family Kids Camp, a week long summer camp for kids in the foster system. On the morning we drove to the church, he begged, pleaded, and even cried to not make him go, to not send him away! Even though we had done lots of prep about camp, he was TERRIFIED! I was able to get him on the bus and when he returned from camp his first words were "thanks for making me be brave and go!" What a success!  During our home visits and GAL visits this month we were told that A was doing great, was demonstrating a lot less anxiety, and that we were doing a great job parenting and being patient and realistic in our expectations. I don't say these things to brag on Justin and myself, but to say that if the two of us broken and definitely imperfect parents can do this- so can you! I hear all the time from people "I could never do what you do", "that must be so hard", or "I'm glad there are people like you."  I truly cannot accept that it is God's will that there are 143 million orphans in our world right now. So many times I question "Is God not calling enough people?", "are we not listening to God's call to care for these children and their families?" I don't know the answer and I understand that not everyone will choose this life. I share our story because I believe that we would not have chosen this path if others (Brandy and TJ) had not shared their stories and their lives with us.