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Control & Trash Bags!

Throughout our certification process many things have stuck in my mind and some things have resonated beyond measure!  There is a necessary commitment to give up control of many things and that must become part of you as you move through this journey.  For a person like me, giving up control is difficult.  I naturally crave structure in my own life and believe strongly in doing things with integrity and to the very best of my abilities.  While I realize that this is truly innate and the way I was simply created, I also know it is something I need to work harder at within my own being.

There are many things in life that are far beyond our control.  When it comes to the foster care journey, it is best to live under the mantra of expect the unexpected.  Even with the vast amount of preparation my husband and I have undergone, we still feel, at times, completely unprepared.  How do you prepare for (up to two) children, infant to eight years of age?

The other day my husband and I went into Babies R Us to return a bedrail we no longer needed because of the purchase of the bunk beds.  As we walked through the store to pick up another small item, I felt that ping once again.  My husband noticed the change in my demeanor and comforted me as it hit me that we were “unprepared.”  Watching new mothers-to-be register with excitement for their items they have lovingly chosen for their newborn brought a few tears to my eyes.  I had realized in that moment that they had an opportunity that we will not be afforded in this journey.  They knew that a baby would come into their home and they were able to prepare for all of the things they felt they would need for their child.  It hit me that I didn’t even have a stitch of clothing to welcome these children into our home.  It was that sense that I had no control over the situation that gave me my first hint of fear.  My hubby reassured me that we were as prepared as we could be and that we always had a local 24 hour store close if we needed to run out and grab a few items.  While that is comforting to know, it still plays with my sense of “control” over the situation of being prepared.  Yes, the room is ready and yes, we have purchased small items like toothbrushes, toys and movies so that they feel a sense of comfort when they enter our home, but my mind returns to what they will show up with in hand and what they will need.

While I thrive on a sense of structure and control, there are things that are completely out of our hands.  We cannot control the reasons the children are removed from their home and brought into the system, but we can control the environment they are brought into in our home.  We cannot control the rehabilitation of their biological parents, but we can pray for them, help where we can and provide safety and love for their children while they work towards reunification.  We cannot control visitations, therapy appointments and court dates, but we can control how we respond to such events and be persons of our word and commitment.  One of the most bothersome things to us is that we cannot control how they are removed from the home, but we can raise awareness and funds to cover costs of something more than a trash bag to place their belongings into when they must leave their home.

This may not see like a huge thing in comparison to the other things listed, but it is something we can change, and it is something that brings respect and integrity back to the child.  It sends a message to the child that they matter and their lives do not belong in a trash bag.  Trash is for trash bags, not children’s belongings.

So with that thought, we move forward towards this goal, the goal to provide every child removed from the home with two things.  First we want to provide each child with a suitcase that their belongings can be appropriately packed into.  This will become their suitcase, and their property!  The second item is a “cinch sack” type bag that will offer items of comfort and necessity for them during this stressful time.  It sends a message that we have thought about them and want to care for them in this difficult time.  The items we hope to include are basic, a toothbrush, toothpaste, pair of pajamas, comfort item and any other necessities they would need immediately according to their age.  We fully understand that this is not the social worker, any agency or organizations fault, but we want to change the message we are sending children.

I think it is important to mention, that it is not our hope to only help the children that come into our home, but that enter foster homes across the country!  We will start right here in our own county and believe that others will follow suit with the same desire.  This is not a local problem, rather a problem in our country.

Isaiah 11:2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—

Romans 8:15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

John 14:27 ~ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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Bunk Beds!

So after my husband shocked me with the idea that we would be willing to bring two children into our home, I spun into action preparing for two instead of one!  The “perfectly” decorated room for one has now become a room for two.  A “simple” change from a single bed to a bunk bed has changed pretty much everything in the room at this point!

After we agreed that we would take two, I began the search for bunk beds.  I figured this was a temporary fix until we decide to move (when the time is right) to a bigger home.  Not wanting to pay a ton of money, we searched for the frame on the internet at various stores, on craigslist, at yard sales and I even put an email out to all of my co-workers.  Finally this past Wednesday, I found a set that looked reasonable and right for the room on Craigslist.  The price was right and I was ready to go and see what they looked like in person.  An hour drive led to the purchase of the lovely solid oak bunk beds.  With a busy week, we knew that putting them together would have to wait until the weekend!

Saturday morning we got up and went to a few yard sales, as this seems to have become our Saturday morning ritual.  I am hunting for a sit and stand stroller, few other little items and whatever else strikes our fancy!   After we finished up on our morning “treasure hunt” we went to a local warehouse to purchase the second mattress we would need for the bunk bed and then it was home to scrub down the new bunk and put it together!

My hubby and I worked together to get the bunk all cleaned up and shiny!  We laughed as we wiped everything down with Murphy’s Oil Soap and commented on how our grandparents swore by the stuff!  The bunk looked like new and was ready to be built!  About half way into building it we realized that the ladder was on the wrong side and that there was NO way to quickly fix the problem.  We went back and forth over whether or not we could make it work or if we should just go and buy a new set.  Finally, I suggested that we just call my dad.  He has always been able to fix everything and well, I just really thought he could help!

Sure enough after a call to my mom, over they came!  Within minutes my dad had a plan and he and my hubby worked side by side to get it done.  My mother and I helped as well, but the guys outdid themselves.  A few small changes and a few little drill holes would make the bed like new and make it work in the room.  It was safe, sturdy and perfect for our needs.

Today, we returned the bedrail we no longer needed, finished up a few minor details on the beds and it was time to re-decorate.  Something I love to do!  I think it is safe to say that the room is ready, ready for two!!!

One thing is for sure, we are thankful for our parents and their help and support.  They are always there for us and support us in so many ways.  I appreciate my mom for many reasons, for her prayers, love, guidance and insight into parenting.  I appreciate my dad for his love and support and help in building and fixing things we are unsure of doing ourselves.  They really don’t know how much it means to us both.  I am also thankful for the relationship they have with my husband.

After they left on Saturday, I sent them both a quick text thanking them for dropping what they were doing to come out and help us figure this out.  My dad’s response was the best.  “No problem, very proud of the path you guys are taking, brings back memories.  Remember if it changes one life, it will be worth it.”  I could hardly respond as I cried.  Still his little girl, I needed that approval.  Those memories he had are of his childhood.  His grandparents, my great grandparents whom I never met, were foster parents and fostered over twenty six children.

I am thankful for the legacy that we have been left.  I am thankful that we are blessed with wonderful parents on both sides.  They pray for us, support us, love us and guide us in ways we never thought.  I know that any fears I have as a mother will be comforted by both my mom and mother-in-law and they will be there to love and “spoil” their grandchildren!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   

 

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Leaving…

With the school year coming to a close, it is my most dreaded time of the year as an educator.  While I look forward to summer break, our vacation, teaching summer school, reading, planning for the next school year, and the new adventure as foster parents, I dread these last few days of school.

Yesterday was round one of goodbyes.  Two of my students have spent the last half of the school year transitioning to what will be their careers.  I like to call this a slow fade.  They first started with two days a week and ended the year with four days a week with us only seeing them on Mondays.  I was okay with it because I still got to see their bright and shiny faces once a week.  Yesterday however, was a day that I had dreaded.  It was their last day in high school… forever!

A small celebration to mark this occasion, a simple cake, a year in review video that I had made for the students, would bring their last day full circle.  As an educator, I often feel that the line between educator and care giver (while at school) blurs, at least for me.  I always hope that, without stepping on toes, my parents know their children are in good hands when they are in my classroom.  I love them and allow each one of them to hold a special place in my heart.  I don’t say this because I am doing anything special, but I love my students as I would my own children and my husband knows very well how each of them become part of our family.

As the end of the day approached and friends were saying their goodbyes, I waited quietly for my turn.  I didn’t really care to have this moment, because I knew that it meant I would more than likely not see them often if at all.  A few pictures and hugs lead to a mass amount of tears for me.  I said my goodbyes and wished them the best that life had to offer.  I also did something I hadn’t done all year, I followed my one student out of the room to watch him walk away and get on his bus.  He was as happy and joyful as the day we had met.  His worst days are often our best days and I do not believe he has ever had a bad day in his life.  He reminded me and taught me to always find the good in everything in life and that he was in fact “the best kid in the world.”

Walking back into the room, my face flooded with tears, I sobbed as I had to say goodbye.  My aid was waiting when I returned and her face was full of tears as well.  We talked for a moment about the kids and how hard it was to say goodbye.  She had mentioned that she did not know how my husband and I were going to do it with foster children.  It was something that we have talked about before, but it really hit me hard that this was going to be a reality.

How are we going to invest in the children brought into our home and then say goodbye.  How will we “survive” that heartache and know we may never see them again?  Year after year, I do this at school.  You see, as a special education teacher, I often have the honor and privilege of having my students more than a year.  For some, I have watched them grow over a course of six years, and others for only a moment.  One both sides, I have found it hard to say goodbye and often think of them and the lessons they have taught me.

No matter what is to come, I know there will be days that are going to be difficult to handle.  These are the moments I truly believe you absolutely cannot prepare for at any level.  There will be goodbyes and they will leave, but I also know that God never gives you more than you can bear.  He also promised it would not be easy, and I believe it will be worth it.

Psalms 30:5 Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.