We were on our way home from our family vacation when we received the call that a baby girl needed a home. We said yes. This is our first foster care placement and we’ve learned A LOT. Mostly the “newborn” thing is old hat for our family, this is our 6th time going through that (7th if you count the brief month with our newborn cousin last year). Chris and I become a little like drowning strangers, we are sleep deprived and on edge. I pray more in the first few months of my babies lives than I ever do because I constantly feel overjoyed and stressed to the max. I can’t share her story but I brought her home from the hospital and she’s been here since she was 12 days old. The kids fell in love with her immediately. September 2016 we went from a family of 7 to a family of 8 in the span of one phone call.
Category Archives: gratitude
Yesterday it finally happened. I was enjoying time with my children and a couple of great friends at my parents’ pool. We were just about to pack up and come home and get ready for church and my phone rang with a local number I didn’t have listed in my contacts. It was DCS Placement! I quickly walked to a quiet spot and held my breath while the lady gave me the details. I told her that I needed to talk with my husband and I would call back as soon as I could. The catch? Chris is in Guam. That’s a HUGE time difference (14 hours to be exact) and he was trying to sleep. It was early morning hours there. She told me that she would continue to try and find a home and then she would call me back if/when she did. I told her I would call her back as soon as I was able to speak with him.
Chris and I had agreed that we would not take a placement without first discussing it and getting a “yes” from both of us. While I waited the 3 or so hours for us to be able to communicate, I prayed like crazy. For any placement, I want our family to be THE place that God would have the child be for the time they need us. I am not so concerned that the child will be a good fit for us, rather the other way around. I want God to be able to use our family, church family, friends to minister to that child. He has to be in control or this whole thing will be a train wreck.
Before I could get Chris on FaceTime or via text, DCS called back. They had found the little girl a home. I was so thankful. Thankful that she would have a place to sleep and more than thankful that God handled the situation better than I would have. In fact, if Chris had been a phone call away, which he almost always is, I would have probably relied on my own logic and arguing to get him to say yes. I don’t know that he would have. We’ve prayed and planned and know that 0-3 years is the age range we feel equipped for right now. But I am a good debater. And Chris, well, he’s a big, ole teddy bear.
That first call came at 3:30pm. When she called me back about 5pm and said “we found her a home,” she was sure to reassure me that they would be calling again. At 8pm, as we pulled into the garage from church, they did call again. This time for a boy, the same age as Foster. I knew I had to say “no”. But that “no” was more heartbreaking than the first call. Thinking of my amazing 12 year old and his friends. The ones who are so full of life, humor, confidence, ideas and insecurities being taken out of their home and placed with strangers? It’s enough to keep you awake at night. Foster said, “I need to start building a room on the house so we could take kids like that. It’s not fair.”
I completely agree with him.
Our journey to foster parenting has reached the next step. Along with the many hours of training classes, we had to gather what felt like a thousand documents, medical records, financial information, shot records (for the dog and the kids), references, insurance documentation and more. I am thankful that I have the history of working with foster care kids and agencies because I really didn’t feel put out by all of this. We had to jump through many other hoops (have a fire extinguisher handy, lock up the medications, etc.). If you are interested in what all we had to do, ask me and I’ll be glad to tell you!
On July 7, 2016 we received an official letter stating that we have been approved as a foster home for the State of Tennessee. I texted my closest people and shared the good news with them. I was thinking that we could get a call at any time. Then, I got a text from our foster parent support worker (social workers are texting these days). He said that we’re NOW fully approved and he wanted to stop by and chat, show me some things on the DCS website and he was giving our names to placement TODAY. That was yesterday. Right before my friend and I were heading out of town for a retreat with some monks (more on that later).
So NOW we are fully approved and even though our parameters are very small (single baby 0-3 years old) and we probably won’t get a call soon, we are ready and we are available!
If I had to name two things that bring me joy they would be organization and change. I happen to think these are good qualities that enable me to be able to thrive in chaotic, stressful environments. My poor husband on the other hand really likes for things to be predictable. I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into when he met me 15 years ago. Even when we were first married and we would be working different shifts or days, he would come home and the furniture would be rearranged and the plates moved to a different cabinet. I would be fired up about a new plan for getting a pet, moving, a new place to buy groceries or new budget spreadsheet. Bless him.
I have tried hard for his sake to limit these changes and he’s done an awesome job at realizing that his wife isn’t trying to make him crazy, she just loves change.
When it comes to having children in your home, whether its one child or eight children, organization and change are imperative. Now, I am not saying that consistency goes out the window. All children flourish with consistency. What I’m talking about is organizing environments and schedules and being willing to change methods and plans.
For example, yesterday morning I called a family meeting with the kids. There were 3 major discussions we needed to have; chores, schoolwork/reading time, “that’s not fair”.
In the area of chores, our kids have a good amount of responsibility. Now that everyone is getting older, I’ve added a few more to their list. We talked about combining a few chores and made assignments for the next week or two. For example, Foster has laundry and bathroom #2. He is responsible for washing, drying, putting away all the laundry. He also wipes down the bathroom sink, mirror, toilet at least once a day. He only has to scrub the tub if it needs it.
The second thing we discussed was the expectation that they need to either work on schoolwork (we never finish Math in a typical school year) or read for one hour before they have any screen time or friend time. With breakfast, chores and reading time they should be done by about 10:30 am and that leaves the next 8 hours for them to be free and have fun.
The third item on the agenda was about attitudes. We discussed how much we have in way of toys, clothes, safety, security and comfort compared to other children. We talked about gratitude and not comparing what someone else gets to what we get. In our home, we have lots of discussion regarding “sometimes its your turn and sometimes its not”. This week Foster was able to spend extra time with visiting family and go to the science museum. Katie got to go with them to the Lost Sea. The younger boys got to go to Chick-fil-a (like go inside and play, which is a rare treat).
This understanding is imperative in our family because not everyone is the same age and maturity level. And the gap will just continue to widen as everyone gets older. When Foster gets a phone or is able to drive the younger boys will still just be 12, 10 and 8 years old. They’re going to have to see him with a lot of privilege and freedom that will be years off for them. In keeping with that, I told them that if I hear “that’s not fair” in any form, like “but he got to, Katie got more than me, I didn’t get a turn,” then they would get a check mark on the white board in the kitchen. Each check mark equals 5 minutes earlier bedtime.
When we have these family meetings, I try to keep the list of items or things we’re changing or working on down to 3 or 4 items so that the kids don’t get overwhelmed and the expectations are clear.
The kids really respond well to these meetings. They will chime in with their own ideas and opinions. They are willing to be flexible and try new routines and rules. Each time I make these changes in the house, I’m showing them that they can learn new things and change their own attitudes. Chris and I are trying to teach them that a family is a team. We work together and not against each other. When we do work together, we feel closer and we can accomplish more.
My parents’ generosity allowed the kids and I to experience another adventure. We left 2 days after Thanksgiving and made the 9 hour trip in their RV to stay at Grayton Beach State Park. This park has a lot of restrictions like no pets on the beach, no walking on the dunes, that kind of thing. Also, you either pay to stay in the campground or you pay by car to visit for the day. The restrictions didn’t bother us and we were thankful for the pristine, peaceful beaches. It was the prettiest beach I’ve ever visited. Even on the weekend days, there were maybe 30 other people around. Filled with plenty of places to bike and walk nature trails, it was an excellent destination for people who aren’t looking for a lot of partying or shopping. There was a Publix close enough and some small little shops around but it wasn’t overgrown or overcrowded. Of course, we were there in December so that could have a lot to do with it. We lucked out and had 3 days that were above 75 degrees. While back home our friends and family were virtually floating away from inches and inches of rain. The last day there the rain caught up to us, so we decided to watch the new Peanuts movie at a local theater.
The kids had a wonderful time. And I enjoyed being with the people I love most in the world. But, I missed Chris (he was bear hunting and working). I also missed personal space, quiet and solitude. With 8 people (5 of them under the age of 12) in an RV you don’t have much of that. Being an introvert has its challenges.
So I am up to 9,312 words! I should be further along now, according to the NaNoWriMo charts, but I’m pretty excited that I’ve gotten this far. The characters are coming to me and they are slowly developing. I’m letting them go where they want to, because as far as plot goes, I really have NO plot. I have some vague ideas but I don’t know if my characters are going to agree with me or not. If they are anything like my children, probably not.
It turns out that Chris was too sick to go hunting this week and weekend so we have had some extra, much needed family time. I was able to have some time out of the house alone on Thursday which is always priceless. Tomorrow, instead of going to church, we are planning on a long drive to find some autumn scenery to enjoy. Tomorrow night we’ll stay in and watch a movie. We were driving to Foster’s soccer practice and I turned to Chris and said “this weekend has been so…healing.” He agreed.
Foster’s last soccer game and end-of-the-season soccer party were today. He received a trophy and ate some doughnuts, it was a nice conclusion to an undefeated season. It’s always nice to be the winners.
My parents came over for dinner this evening and I still feel so thankful that they can just drive over for dinner any time. I’m not sure they’ll bring a dessert to share next time though since my kids ate all the cheesecake before the grown-ups could get any.