Category Archives: motherhood

Foster Parent Conference 2017

We were able to knock out a ton of training hours this past weekend. Now we have until next June to get one last hour and we can do that online! It’s one less DCS induced stressor that won’t be hanging over my head. (Still need to get the dog’s shot records up-to-date…shh…)

The best thing about the weekend was just getting to be with Chris. He is rarely the only person I need to pay attention to and it’s a luxury when that can happen. We spent 14 hours in training or listening to keynote speakers, so there wasn’t a ton of free time. We did get to hang out with another foster parent couple from our neck of the woods on Saturday night. Sunday we cut out early so we could go visit some family at their church.

I had been holding my breath waiting for September. I needed this trip and I needed for our little foster baby, Pipsqueak, to get some good news about going home to her forever family. Her first birthday is this month. I was wrestling with God trying to push and push and getting frustrated at His lack of compliance. (I’m not sure why the ruler of the universe won’t just do what makes my life easier…but He doesn’t.)

What was making things harder for me, personally, was that every day I was feeling more like I can’t let this human go. If she starts walking, if she starts calling me “mommy”, if she cries when I leave her in the nursery, I’m not going to be able to do it. I felt like I was ready to let her go. And I had accepted her being adopted by her forever family 6 months ago. So she needed to just go NOW. Which is when I like things done.

God is so gracious. Patient with my impatience. He had worked it all out ahead of time and I just needed to trust this is all in His timing. But, man, foster care will take you through the ringer. Two months before we were to leave for the weekend conference, Pipsqueak’s family had planned to come and keep her over the weekend, then hopefully take her home right after her first birthday. Speaking about this and not divulging too much is a fine line. Basically, they live FAR away. They can’t just pop in and get her when they want to, or be here at the drop of a hat for court or visits.

Then just a few days before we were to leave, I get a text from her forever mommy that says that a certain DCS office has still not sent some extremely important paperwork to the licensing office. At that point, I had to just give it to God. I had to accept that His plan was greater than mine. That she would take her first steps with us. That it could be another month or three before they finally got to take her home.

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you wanted something so badly and you are praying and waiting and thinking it’s never going to happen and then you finally let go and it does? That’s what this was like.

Literally 42 hours before we left (I was counting down, don’t judge), I got a text saying that licensing had received the packet and was coming to visit their home 2 hours before they needed to leave their state and head to ours. It was a miracle. THEN the next day, shortly after we arrived at the conference I got a call from Pipsqueak’s caseworker, letting me know that ON HER BIRTHDAY we were going to have her last CFTM (big important meeting) and that she would be placed with her forever family.

You guys, God. I just sit in awe and wonder of His GRACE, MERCY, LOVE.

Because I got that call, I was able to relax and enjoy the time with my husband. And we were able to begin to talk about what it will be like to let our little Pipsqueak go. We were able to start processing together the changes it will make in our family and for the big kids.

God is so good. 21368707_10212821857768999_2279935667135562710_o

Pipsqueak – month by month

August 24th marked 11 months since we brought Pipsqueak home from the hospital. When we were doing our foster parent training classes I was struggling to get the necessary items ready at home. The only thing I knew was that we were open to accepting one child, a girl, 0-4 years old. That’s a huge age range when it comes to what they may need or wear or even sleep in.

As I went to garage sales, accepted donations from friends, etc. I kept being drawn to the newborn items. Not because they were cute (which they are). It was because I just had a feeling we would get a call for a newborn. Unfortunately, our area of the country is ravaged by drug addiction and mothers who are having drug-exposed or NAS babies. One of my best friends would often remind me that I didn’t need to stress about having all the newborn baby items because there was a good possibility we would get a call for a 2 or 3 year old.

She was right, of course, and we did get a few calls that we weren’t able to take. One call was the right age (4 years old) and gender and just a single child but Chris was in Guam and I couldn’t make contact with him in time to take that placement. Another call was about a 2-year-old little girl,  a middle-of-the-night call while we were in another state on vacation.

As we’ve spent the last 11 months caring for and loving Pipsqueak, I’ve seen all the ways that God’s will is sovereign and perfect. She is due to be placed with her adoptive family any day now. The question that I get the most often is whether I’ll have a hard time letting her go. I hesitate to be brutally honest about it, unless it’s one of my best friends (including my hubby). They already know me and my heart. But other people outside of that circle really have a hard time understanding when I say “no, I think I will be just fine when she moves” and I really mean that. I will be more than fine. I will be so happy that she is finally getting the permanency she deserves. God prepared my heart months ago. Now it’s just the waiting that is hard.

I’m not a good waiting person. I know this. My husband knows this all too well. I feel like all the time that has been wasted on legalities and bureaucracy could have been time for her to bond with her forever family. It also could have been time where another child who needs a home could have been placed with us. However, I know God knows more than I do. He has a plan. He has a purpose. In foster care, it seems I have to strive to simultaneously trust Him (WAIT! BE STILL!) and advocate (LET’S GO PEOPLE!) for Pipsqueak’s case to keep moving forward.

Pipsqueak has taught myself, my husband and my children a lot about what it means to sacrifice for another person. And I hope that we have been all that she has needed and more in her first year of life.

New title and tagline

WordPress is sending me daily emails. Trying to help me with my blog education. Today I was supposed to update my title and tagline.

When we got our first foster care placement back in September, our number of kids went from 5 to 6. At the time, my Instagram account was titled 5grubbworms. That was driving me crazy because now there weren’t just 5 there were 6. Even if Pipsqueak is only here for a little while, she’s a Grubb while she’s here. So I pondered changing it to 6grubbworms but I have no idea if we will foster more children in the future so why place a limit on the number? So my @5grubbworms became @allthelittlegrubbs on Instagram and I liked it so much I decided to revamp the blog name too.

The tagline is a different story and requires a little more explanation.

I love children. All the children. I really do. I’m the grown-up who will fight for the kids. I want to protect them all, heal them all, love them all. I would gladly give them my all.

Unfortunately, I’m also an introvert. Most small humans under the age of 18 tend to be loud and have endless stores of energy and emotional needs. It’s the way they are wired.

In essence, what I love about children – their innocence, kindness, excitement, energy, creativity, transparency, affectionate natures and potential, is also what is so, so exhausting.

Are they worth it though? Are they worth wanting to crawl into a shell after being with them all day? Are they worth never getting to have a complete adult conversation? Of not having time to read a book, or write a blog post, go on trips, etc.? Of course. No doubt.

My new tagline: Give me all the children. Then get them away from me.

Fatty, Fatty 2 by 4

*This post is a follow up to my Social Media Fast post, if you’d like to start there.

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I decided to move on to another area of my life that has been weighing me down (literally). My eating and my exercise habits (or lack thereof). I have approached these changes with a totally different attitude than I ever have. I am only drinking water and black coffee, no more sodas or tea, creamer or Frappuccinos (evil Starbucks). I was consuming a lot of sugar and crap through what I was drinking and I wanted to see if the same amount of self-discipline that allowed me to quit social media would also be there while I quit eating desserts, eating after 6:30pm and drinking sugar.

As with the social media fast, I quickly realized that this was going to be more of a psychological battle. The first challenge? Becoming obsessed with a number on the scale. So many experts out there will tell you not to worry about what the scale says. I don’t have a specific number in mind, but I do have a range I’d like to be in. And I have to make that my goal because I can’t see my own body for what it is.

When I look at myself it is all subjective. My number on the scale may be 50 pound less than the person next to me, but I still see and feel that I am too big. I know everyone may not have this problem, but I’d venture to say the majority of American women do. We are not usually pleased with our bodies, no matter what we say or project. There is a certain amount of my “give a damn” that broke when I turned 40. But I am human. I’d rather not be buying bigger sizes of clothes. I’d rather be comfortable in a swimsuit. I’d rather not look 6 months pregnant when my youngest child is about to turn 5.

So my motivation initially to make diet/exercise changes was to lose weight. But just like with the social media fast, I quickly realized with every day that passed that I was sleeping better, having fewer headaches and fewer mood swings. It’s funny how much and how long we justify our bad habits. I have had so many sweet friends over the years try to give me advice on how to better care for myself physically. Drink more water. Walk or run. Cut out most sugar. Don’t eat late. Eat more veggies. Don’t eat out.

And I appreciate every moment they took to try and help me. Unfortunately, what comes easier to some, comes very painfully to others. I DETEST exercise. I didn’t say that so plainly for many years, but it’s the truth. I didn’t play sports as a kid, the opportunities weren’t afforded me to even try. By college, my roommate was a runner and exercise science major. At that point I was about 120 pounds and thought exercise was a) BORING b) quite uncomfortable (with all that sweating) c) pointless. Then my mid-20’s hit and along with it came 5 babies in a less than 8 year span. And I grew all those babies. Like I gained all the weight and have all the stretch marks (making me regret the belly button ring I had in college).

Along with the eating changes, I do want to start walking. The three oldest kids will be running cross country this semester. I’m hoping to walk while they are practicing three times a week, IF Parker and Jonah will cooperate and walk with me.

Here’s to hoping I can continue to establish good habits, feel healthier and lose a few pounds. Without having to eat a skinny person.

Family Meeting

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.

 

Wishes and Obstacles

I turned 40 years old in April.

I am probably about halfway there, if I live until I’m 80.

A little backstory to my wish. When I was 8 years old my cousin, who was 6 years old, spent time with us pretty often. Things were rough at her house. My aunt had made another bad man choice and I’d say odds are pretty good that my little cousin was being abused. She was definitely being neglected. I grew up on the good side of town. But my cousin, she was on the poor side of town. The times I went to her side of town and stayed are burned in my memory. The games we played in the trailer park where we dug for treasures in the dumpster. The times we stayed outside as long as possible to stay away from her “step-dad” and all the smoking and drinking. Her mom and step-dad fought a lot. They screamed and threw things. Then as we got a little older, they had a baby. He was left next door with his grandmother for hours or days. They preferred the baby boy so my little cousin was treated even worse into her preteen years.

As I got older, my middle school, middle class attitude caused me to draw a line in the sand between myself and my cousin. She was over there with THEM. I was over here, where things were clean, quiet and comfortable.

When I left college to work in a group home filled with girls in state’s custody, I encountered more girls like my cousin. More children who had grown up not just in poverty, but were growing up with abuse, neglect and hopelessness. For every teenage girl that came through and stayed at the group home, there were a many younger siblings they had left behind. They were old enough to run away, or get in trouble so that they were removed from the home but their younger siblings were still there. Or had been scattered among foster homes.

At 23 years old, I knew that I would be a foster parent. What I really thought was that I would open my own group home. Then the state decided every child should be in a home, not an institution, so true long-term group homes have been all but eliminated. The vision, the dream, the desire I had then looked like this: A safe, stable, clean place that any child could find refuge in for as long as they needed it. This vision included meals together, chores and outings, hugs and encouragement, protection and spiritual guidance.

My belief system is anchored in the belief that God has a plan. He knew my childhood, He knew my early working years, He knows my marriage and family now. He is in control.

What I also believe is that I have to move forward with my wish. So that He can show me how the obstacles can be removed. I cannot stop moving forward because of what other people may think, because of discomfort or inconvenience. I will not stop moving forward. If God wanted me to have a different dream, He would have given me one.

My inspiration for this post came from this TED talk.

Getting ready for 2016

2016 is almost here and I’m excited!

Personally, I’ll be challenging myself to continue to add balance to my life. Somehow, when I began to have children and then decided to stay home and educate them myself, I made a dangerous trade-off.

Not only did my husband and I decide to become a one income family but I lost something much more valuable than a paycheck. I lost myself.

This is a risk for all mothers, I believe. Whether they mean for it to happen or not. Some women pride themselves in throwing their all into their children’s lives, thinking and feeling like their children and their husband should always be first and be given the focus of ALL their energy and time. I did this at first. I decided to stop pursuing a career in the social work world to instead stay home and raise my first baby boy.

I have never regretted my decision. Our family grew quickly, five babies in 7 and a half years and I was BUSY. Busy with nursing babies and changing diapers, chasing toddlers and teaching preschoolers. Busy learning how to home educate. Busy learning how to be married when the shiny and new wears off and the hard, lean, trying years crowd out romance and time together.

In all that busyness, I did forget to add in a little margin for myself. I let old friendships die, I stopped reading almost completely, I did not write my thoughts or my favorite quotes anymore. I did not go out to eat with a friend and sit and talk for hours on a regular basis. I did not ask for what I needed, I did not seek out ways I could continue to fight for children in foster care and meet the needs of a population I feel most called to help.

I let it all get lost and while I can (and have over the years) blame circumstances and my husband and others for this, the responsibility lies with me. This TED talk really sums up the gist of it. It is up to me to get what I want.

If I want to read, I need to take the time and let the people around me know that it is a priority. If I want to write, I need to do just sit down and write. I have participated in and won NaNoWriMo 2014 and 2015 and that has done wonders for me. In 2015, I challenged myself to read 48 books. I won’t make it to 48, not for lack of trying but because my spinal fusion recovery caused me to miss more reading time than I planned. I am on my 43rd book of the year so I feel like I’ve still accomplished a lot!

Deciding to fight for my health, to fight against my own fear of surgery and the feeling of “who will do it all if I’m out of commission for that long”. Making the decision to have spinal fusion surgery – that was another accomplishment for 2015.

So why I am so excited for 2016?

First, I’ll be adding a photography challenge to my current reading and writing challenges. I know NOTHING (a big, fat zero percent) about photography. All I know is that when I look at some of my talented friends’ photos, I am inspired to be creative.

My children are always asking me, “What do you get if you win?” They aren’t very impressed when I explain that I just get the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done it!

Second, I’ll be training and working as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer again. I did this for a short time when I left the Blount County Children’s Home in 2002. I am so passionate about this organization and advocating for children. I can’t wait to get started!

And last but not least, I turn 40 this year. I plan to celebrate the whole year, but so that I don’t drive everyone around me crazy, I’ll try to limit the blatant celebrating to the month of April.