7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Introduction

I'm into month one now. Can you guess one of my seven foods?

I’m into month one now. Can you guess one of my seven foods?

I mentioned that I’ve been in a weird place for the past few months. I think its a combination of things going pretty well from the outside yet things still being difficult behind the curtains. When the kids’ parents’ rights were terminated in December (and even before that when it looked like it would happen soon), I realized that this is my life. Home life is not easy anymore, so being home is not the haven it used to be. Spiritually, I was feeling a winter season coming on after a very exciting summer and fall harvest-type season in my spiritual life. I recognized that if I didn’t find something to shake me up a bit, some goal or something to work on, I could easily slip away in the wrong direction. It’s so easy to atrophy towards lives that are different from and seem easier than the ones God calls us to.

Enter: Seven : an experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker. I read this book over a year ago and while I enjoyed her writing, I didn’t feel at all inspired to try something similar in my life. Of course, I think we were probably in the throes of losing Midge at the time, and life was full of stress, visitations, emotional upheaval and uncertainty. It was no time for any more challenges than the one we were living. Plus, some of the challenges seemed too daunting while others seemed irrelevant to me. 

A month or two ago, one of the women from our church posted on Facebook about the book, and many others responded. Pretty soon a group of women who wanted to try the seven month challenge had formed, and without reviewing what I was in for, I signed up, looking for something to shake me up a bit in my physical and spiritual life. 

While seven is an experiment in eliminating excess from our lives and Hatmaker sets her own rigid rules for each month, the focus is supposed to be on spiritual formation and compassion for the poor. Readers can challenge themselves in the same way as the author or make their own rules, but the goal should be the same: more of the Holy Spirit and less of our own indulgences ruling our lives. 

A one month fast of some kind in the following areas of excess: Food. Clothing. Possessions. Media. Spending. Waste. Stress. 

I saw the group forming on Facebook and I was in. I AM in. I am going to be in for the next seven months. What the heck was I thinking?

A New Year :: A New Start

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It’s been a long few weeks here as I seemed to have hit a wall in several areas of my life and felt kind of lost for a bit. But things are looking up! I’m feeling optimistic and motivated…

 

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  • a fresh start with Emmie. Our relationship is very tricky and our personalities clash in lots of ways. But I have a newfound determination to think before I speak, and to preface each interaction with her with the thought of “What would a loving mother do here?” and then just do it, regardless of what I’m feeling. (An idea I got from another adoptive mom’s blog.)
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  • exercise. 2011, 2012, and 2013 are all a big blur to me. I feel like I’ve been treading water for three years and we finally have some stability in our lives. Which means I can finally really make a decent effort at getting regular exercise into my weekly routine. In fact, wait for it… I’m training for a triathalon! My weakness is running so I’m starting there and will add in the swimming and bike training once I can run a few miles without dying! I found a neighbor who’s going to try it with me, and hopefully we’ll be ready at the end of August!
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  • spiritual life. It comes as no surprise that Satan’s been attacking me in the past few months. Speaking with Greg in church about fostering and adopting, teaching the women’s study on Wednesday mornings every three or four weeks, daily living in a way that goes against cultural apathy…none of these things please Satan much. So I’ve seen a surge of temptation and am feeling a dry spell spiritually. I remember feeling this once in college and coming across the following in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: (speaking from the devil’s point of view) “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  So I’m heading forward and am joining a group of great christian women who are going through Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven, and trying the challenges. The goal is that with the monthly fasts from one excess or another, our spiritual lives would be awakened in a new way.
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  • food. First up in the challenges from Seven is a food challenge. My most dreaded challenge. Because I love to eat. A lot. And I like butter. But if you’re picking only seven foods to eat for a month, butter had really better not be one of them. Actually, I was already thinking about trying some juicing to get more fruits and vegetable nutrients into our lives, and a friend is trying a clean eating challenge with some kind of shakes, which I hate. So why not start out the year with a food detox challenge torture situation? The worst that can happen is that I’m miserable and lose a lot of weight in January. It’s only a month. And maybe it will jump start my food choices in a healthier way for the year.
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  • photography. Boy, was 2013 a crummy year in photography for me. (Feeling annoyed about this, I did scrape through my archives to find the 2013 pictures that I’m using in this post!) My favorite pictures were almost all for clients and hardly ever for me. I want to change that this year. I’m going to try to use my iphone to create some photography that I love, instead of just grabbing it to record the jog-a-thon or the Christmas program. I want to use my big camera more, too, but as for a creativity challenge, I’m trying it with my iphone. Hmmm….
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  • carpool. Okay, so this isn’t quite as momentous as any other things, but I have found another parent to split the morning kindergarten pickups with! Right now I get to school at 8:00 for Anthony’s start, stay until 8:30 for Emmie and Tyler’s start, then get home a little before 9:00, only to turn around and leave at 11:00 to pick Anthony up again. Two hours is not a lot of time! But now, two or three days a week I can stay home and he’ll be brought to my door at 11:45. Perfect!! And Emmie has settled in with her friends before school so I’m planning to leave at 8:00 some days instead of staying until the second bell. Freedom!IMG_1867

So for the first time in a while, I’m feeling good. Optimistic. Goal oriented. I do love a new year!

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Parental Rights Were Terminated.

I can’t believe it’s only five days until Christmas. So much has happened since I last posted…I know it’s no secret that I’m barely keeping this blog alive. But that’s reality: life gets busy and I’m okay with that.

The big news is that the trial happened for E and A on December 9, and miracle of all miracles, they terminated their parents’ rights! We couldn’t believe it. Apparently, they asked the social worker if we would be open to becoming only legal guardians for the kids so that their mom could keep on trying to get them back. She informed them that there was no way we would be open to that, and that if they did that, they should be prepared to find the kids a new home because she didn’t think we would keep them. She was right, but I’m glad I didn’t know about any of this beforehand! I have never heard Greg speechless until the moment I called him to tell him that the rights were terminated.

So we haven’t had visits for two weeks, which has been amazing. There will be a goodbye visit the day after Christmas with their birth mother, and I don’t know what’s going on with their birth father. It’s strange to call them “birth parents” but as E informed A, that’s what they’re going to be now. She has a best friend two doors down who was adopted as an infant from foster care, and apparently they had discussed this during a playdate at some point. I’m thankful that we know so many adopted people at school and in the neighborhood, so that it doesn’t seem strange for our new little ones.

The kids are doing really well with it. E was upset the first night, as she really thought her birth mother was going to get her back (because she had been telling E this at visits, apparently.) And she’s really upset that she won’t ever see her old friends again. But after that first night, we haven’t seen any mourning. I know that will come in waves over the next few years.

As for A, he was thrilled to hear he was staying with us forever. He wasn’t really paid much attention to at his old house. E calls for so much attention that I think A was just an afterthought in the corner. Nobody played with him or spent much time with him, I don’t think. He has never once said that he missed anyone or anything from his old house, family, life. How sad. But now he’s here forever and couldn’t be more pleased to have brothers and a family who love him and pay attention to him.

And we have seen Midge once a week since Thanksgiving! We met up with her and her dad at Disneyland last Sunday, and she’s coming over for the day this Sunday, when we will open her Christmas presents with her. Her dad informed me today that the dreaded horrible social worker who was taken off the case has now weaseled her way back in. It is the worst news I could have heard. This woman is determined to keep Midge in limbo forever and to give her mother more and more visitations all the time. Couldn’t she just leave the poor baby alone and let her try to lead a normal life? No. She can’t.

We are grateful that Midge’s dad seems to be willing to let us help him with her quite often. I would love to get to the point where we have her at least one day a week on a regularly scheduled basis. It would give him a break, because she rules the roost over there and can drive him crazy, and it would be good for her and for our kids, who all miss their sister.

When people ask me how many kids I have, I say five. She will always be my baby, no matter where she lives. When a parent divorces, they don’t disown their child just because they live with a different parent now, do they? If asked for more details I tell them my kids are 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9, but my 3 year old lives with her dad right now. All true, and definitely more accurate than saying that I only have four kids.

Merry Christmas to you all! I will be here trying to survive the two and a half weeks of the kids all together, trying to get along. The Christmas festivities are all new for E and A, so it’s been extra fun this year seeing it all afresh through their eyes. And I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to what the new year may bring!

A Week Off, or a Week On?

When your kids have a whole week off for Thanksgiving, do you cheer or moan? I’ve done some of each this week.

Jake and I had a great cub scout campout last weekend and I had a beautiful hike by myself today, both of which gave me some distance from the children that was much needed. Clingy children and a little too much sibling ‘togetherness’ can suffocate me! The good news is that several times in the last few days, E has played successfully with the other three for up to an hour. This is a major victory! Although the things they’re playing are a little wilder than I’d like, maybe I can see the light that E could become part of the sibling group play time. Thank goodness.

She’s Gone (Again.)

Midge’s dad didn’t want to wait to pick her up today, like we’d talked about earlier this week. He came last night and got her. He’s acting strange and I don’t know what he heard about what we reported to the agency. We couldn’t, in good conscience, keep our concerns to ourselves. I’m guessing something was said about us at court. I’m going to call the social worker and request a copy of the court transcripts. (We can only get those because we are de facto parents.)

When he took her, he mentioned that they’d be busy until after the holidays. Then he mentioned something about Thanksgiving, so hopefully he meant that we could see her after Thanksgiving.

In any case, apparently the judge mandated two visits a month for Midge WITH US. Huh? I’ve never heard of a judge ordering visits with foster parents. I have no idea what that’s about. Maybe the social worker can clear up what happened yesterday at court.

As for the stages of grief, I’m firmly in the denial stage.

We Interrupt This Great Idea With The Loss of Our Baby Girl.

So it was a great idea to really consolidate the things I can tell people I need help with when they ask if they can help out. And I still plan to do it, but as it turns out, God was already planning to take a big load off of us.

Midge will probably be leaving us again on Saturday.

Turns out that Social Services has cleared up (in their minds) the reason that Midge was removed this last time. Hasn’t really cleared up our concerns, but since when were foster parents’ concerns ever important? Even when we’ve parented this girl for about twice as long as either biological parent.

And on top of that, we’re not really sure where our relationship is with Midge’s dad right now. We couldn’t in clear conscience not say anything to Midge’s attorney and social worker about our concerns, but if it gets back to him that we are concerned, he could very well shut us out of her life completely. And who knows what he’s been told already. Just today he told me that he’s going back to his old church instead of coming to ours, where he’s been coming sporadically for the last few months.

And to think that I was honestly thinking that this really might be the last chance, like everyone so gravely said it was at the “Team Decision Meeting” a few weeks ago, where the only members of the “Team” who matter are the birth parents. Who’s on Midge’s team over there at the county?

So there you have it. Our schedule is clearing up suddenly. But don’t worry, I plan on having plenty of extra meltdowns to deal with from E, as she fell apart last time Midge left. Should be fun. So there will be plenty of need for that help we were talking about yesterday…

So You Want To Help? Part I.

I posted a link on facebook to this great blog post about ways to help families adjusting to new kids in the home. It’s funny how everyone jumps up to volunteer to bring meals and help out when a newborn baby arrives, knowing that newborns suck every minute out of the day, and the minutes leftover belong to the big sisters and brothers who still need some mommy and daddy, too. But people don’t often realize that bringing home bigger kids is just as hard as bringing home newborns. I realize how uniquely we are blessed to have a wonderful church, school, and neighborhood community who has rallied around us and wants to help us when things are hard!

When our car broke down and our other car couldn’t hold all our kids, neighbors and school friends jumped right in to carpool our kiddos. When I’ve been overwhelmed during these three years of fostering we’ve had family and friends who have taken any combination of our children off of our hands for hours or days just so we could breathe. We’ve had flowers delivered after sad court verdicts. We’ve had friends donate their timeshare to our family as we grieved the first loss of Midge. We’ve had neighbors who’ve brought over a sandwich in the afternoon, asking if I’d eaten lunch yet today, and when I stopped to think, I realized I hadn’t. We’ve had meals delivered and bathrooms and kitchens cleaned by loving family members. And we’ve had SO MUCH PRAYER and babysitting and friendship that it overflows.

We’re in a “just hanging on” place again right now, and I know there have been so many people asking me how they can help. It’s a hard question to answer: I think I need a clone.

Because the foster kids just need healthy doses of Greg and I. They need to feel secure that we’re not going anywhere and that we love them all the time. They need to go through that toddler-aged clingy time of trust vs. mistrust because they’ve never gone through that with us, and perhaps not at all. They need us to be constantly available to them so they can be assured that we’re trustworthy, and in theory, that will help their negative behaviors decrease.

And guess what Jake and Tyler need: more of us, too! Surprise! Most families have a hard time balancing the needs of their traumatized kids with the needs of their biological kids, especially in the beginning, and we’re no different. While Jake and Tyler are securely attached, they do still need parenting and encouragement and time without the other kids and reassurance that we’re still there for them, too.

Plus we all need time with each other to bond. I’m trying to be more purposeful about seeking out activities that help me bond to E. And I’d like to be purposeful about finding activities that help Jake bond to E, also. So in my fantasy world, I’d love to be able to take Jake and E out to do something fun on a regular basis, just so that Jake can begin to associate pleasant feelings and memories with her.

And while all of this ‘being present’ and ‘patient with clinginess’ and ‘available for the kids’ and ‘manufacturing bonding opportunities’ (not to mention ‘dealing with mega-tantrums and other behaviors’) is happening, I do need to keep the house running and drive the kids to school and visits and cook and clean and make time for the therapy and social worker appointments and such.

But I realize that the last paragraph is the one part that I actually can delegate out. So I’m going to try it. Hopefully within the next couple of days I’m going to put together a list of particular ways that people can help our family. I’m thinking that if we can get just a little bit more help in the next six weeks, maybe we can make it to Christmas and feel a little more secure in our family relationships.

Stay Tuned for Part II: The List.

She’s Back…

I know there are a few of you who only know what’s going on around here via blog, and I’ve let you down. Last week I started a post, thinking I’d tell you about my fabulous getaways to Portland and Santa Barbara and my pondering thoughts about our two older foster kiddos.

But then we got the phone call Monday night…Midge is back in our house. She was reunified with her Dad for a week. (Let me recap: removed in fall 2010. With us for two years. Reunified with Dad for 8 months. With us again for 2 months. Reunified with Dad for 1 week. Back with us now.) We don’t know much and we have no idea if this was really the “last chance” (doubt it!) but we do know that she’s here probably until late November and that she has a new social worker. PRAISE GOD!!!!!

Yes. I’m shouting that. Maybe this woman will bring some sanity, clarity, neutrality, and fresh perspective to this case and get Midge into some stability, whether with her Dad or with us.

Please pray for our family. Jake is a mess. E is a mess (our 6 year old foster daughter). Midge was fine for a few days and is now a mess (this timeline is consistent with the last time she came back to us.) Tyler is a breeze, thank goodness. Little A is about the same as ever…sometimes adorable, sometimes terrible. But parenting this brood this week has been quite a job. I’m so thankful for all of my family and friends and their prayers.

I’d say I’ll update soon, but I’d probably be lying.

By the way, the other kids’ court date is this coming Tuesday. According to their new social worker, there are lots of holes in the case, services that should have been provided and weren’t, which could result in a six month extension on their case. Oh joy. Just one more thing to think about.

It seems like every year I tell myself that by Christmas our family will be settled in and set in stone. Yet again, that’s not going to happen. We shall see.

Five Month Fosters.

I know this blog has been sorely neglected, but that’s just a fact of life around here. Just like the housework is being neglected and the big jobs like closet cleaning and backyard maintenance and catching up with that friend you meant to have over to dinner six months ago.

I’m behind.

The kids, on the other hand, are not being neglected. I’m spending just about every waking moment interacting with one or more of my five, teaching them how to navigate life in this new family we’ve created. Five months with our new foster kiddos and I can definitely say that their negative behavior patterns are decreasing rapidly. Five weeks with Midge home and she can once again stay in time out, take no for an answer, obey (now & then) and follow our routines (mostly).

School is in full swing and I’ve finally gotten a handle on how to do homework with a kindergartener, first grader, and second grader, two of whom can’t read and all three of whom doing their homework in spanish, which isn’t a first language for any of us. (The fourth grader is on his own for homework…phew!) There’s lots of driving with all the school drop offs and pickups (we have too many car seats to be involved in a carpool right now) and not to mention visits five days a week. But at least we’re into a rhythm.

But none of that describes the discomfort I have with where we are right now. I had expected to be more emotionally attached to our newest kiddos by five months in, and it’s still something I’m struggling with. Older child adoption is definitely something where you fake it ’til you make it, I think. We’re putting in the work of the action of loving, knowing (hoping?) that the feelings will come with time. The decrease of difficult behaviors makes it easier for us to begin to form the attachments you want to have within a family, so I’m thanking God for that. And we have seen so much progress with sibling relationships! I think the problem is my self-imposed timeline and thinking that I am “behind” when it comes to feeling attached. Another friend mentioned that when there’s still the uncertainty of foster care it’s harder to form those long-term family bonds. So hopefully when their court date happens in November we will know one way or another about whether they’re here long term or not. Maybe that will accelerate our attachment, too. We’ll see.

So between the non-stop activity at our house and the difficult feelings that I don’t want to place out there too much for the world (and my kids in the future!) to read, I’m just keeping this blog a little quieter than usual. And that’s fine with me. We’ll probably only have Midge another week or so and then the family dynamic will change once again. I’ll just take it one day at a time.

I Never Would Have Thought…

A year ago I never would have thought I’d be in the position I was in today. And I never would have thought that what came out of my mouth could possibly come out of my mouth.

Midge has been back with us for three weeks and there are another three weeks until the court trial where the judge will decide whether to reunify her again with her father, terminate family reunification services, or start up new case plans for her parents.

So today Midge’s attorney’s assistant met with me and told me what the other workers are recommending. The two social workers on the case both are recommending that Midge reunify with her father and have something called CRISP, which means Conditional Reunification with Intense Supervision Plan or something like that. Basically, they think the reason for this most recent removal wasn’t serious enough to keep her from her dad, but will watch the future carefully.

Which is pretty much what Greg and I think. Midge’s dad spoils her and doesn’t parent her at all like we would, but she has never seemed unsafe or not taken care of unloved in the last eight months that she’s been with him. The removal was for a technicality and really shouldn’t have happened.

So the lady tells me that Midge’s attorney’s office wasn’t ready to agree to any reunification any more, and that they were thinking of going for completely stopping the family reunification services. (Translation: if they got their way, Midge would be ours.) Then she flat out asks me, “Would you be opposed to Midge reunifying with her dad and having the CRISP?”

And all I can honestly say is, “No, we’re not opposed to it.” As much as we’d love to keep her, and as much as she should have been ours a year or two ago, what happened this time around isn’t right and it wouldn’t be fair to her dad to act like he’s failed to prove he can’t take care of her. Because he hasn’t.

So I’m guessing that on October 16 we’ll be saying goodbye to our baby yet again.

But you can bet that I’m calling her dad and holding this over him! I’m telling him that the way he can thank us for making this path easier for him is by keeping Midge safe and making sure we get to see her often. After all, she’s part of our family, too.

Bonus Week with Midge.

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We’ve had Midge back for a week now. I’m viewing these extra days as ‘bonus’ days/weeks with her. I haven’t talked to the investigative social worker yet, but it sounds like this most recent failure of family reunification, as they’re calling it, is just another case of ‘social worker strikes again.’

When they reunified Midge with her dad last December, we were very much against it. There is a reason for the 6-12 month recommended timeframe for reunification of infants in foster care. There is just too much crucial bonding going on in those early years and after two years with her seeing us as her family, it was ridiculous to ‘reunify’ her with another person. Not to mention that there had been only a few months when her father really showed interest in having sole custody of Midge. It just didn’t add up and we hadn’t seen enough bonding between them to feel like it was in Midge’s best interests.

Regardless of whether it was right or wrong to move her to her dad’s at Christmas, it was done. And there have been eight months for him to prove that he can be a successful single dad. Eight months for them to build the bond that they lacked for the first two and half years of Midge’s life. He has done a great job. Sure, she is spoiled and doesn’t obey worth a darn anymore, but she is well taken care of and she is loved. As much as we love having her back and as much as we’d love to keep her forever, it just isn’t right what the county is doing…again.

Thursday, they were supposed to close Midge’s case. Midge’s mom and Midge’s social worker saw the writing on the wall and conspired to get more time…some way, some how, just as they have always done. Over the two years we had her, there were multiple changes in county jurisdiction, accusations of various things, social workers calling in sick on court days and openly admitting that it was a lie, and delay after delay being allowed and encouraged. Whatever it takes to drag out this little girl’s case, these two women will do.

So there was probably no danger for Midge when they removed her from her dad a week and a half ago. He is caught up in a technicality and some accusations and probably nothing more. It’s possible I don’t have the full story, but I’m guessing the story I have is pretty close to the truth. And our little girl is confused and emotional.

Poor Midge. Yet again caught up in the crazy foster system. We are so grateful that she had us…her family…to come home to, rather than having to spend this investigative time with strangers. We are so grateful for the good relationship we’ve developed with her dad over the past almost three years. It was hard work and not work that we wanted to do, but we are called to love our neighbor so we did it, and of course, God’s way was the best way.

Who knows how long she’ll be here? We’re just retraining our spoiled little sweetheart and soaking up every moment with her that we can. Every cuddle and kiss and chance to rock her to sleep is a gift. We hold her loosely but with all of our hearts.

The One Project I Got Done in the Past Four Months.

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It took me several months (plus the years I’d been thinking about doing it) but I redid my dining room wall! I was mostly inspired by the silhouette walls I’d seen popping up on Pinterest, which I thought would be cool to do for all of our kiddos. I wasn’t sure that the bright colored frames and black would look right, but I think that when I get around to making new curtains (I already have the fabric in coordinating colors) it will look just right. IMG_7614

Speaking of Pinterest, I did another Bible Verse canvas like the one I was inspired to do for this tutorial. But of course I left the stickers on too long and the paint dried before I peeled them off, leaving me with this very weathered and torn up verse instead. Oh well. I don’t have time to worry about that. But there’s your warning: don’t let the spray paint dry completely before pulling of the letters! IMG_7617  Another Pinterest inspired piece…the frame with wire and pictures. My cousin Becky brought this frame to Christmas Eve for the gift exchange a while ago, and it had a back on it and was painted grayish blue. Very cute but I wanted to repurpose so I bought some wire and mini clothespins, nailed the wire into the back of the frame and painted the clothespins and frame to match and voila! The 2″x3″ pictures look so cute in here! I figure I’ll change them with the season. (Ha! Yeah right! You will visit me in three years and the same pictures will be here!) IMG_7618

My favorite part is the silhouettes. I LOVE them! I got the cute frames at Ikea and spray painted them all black. (They are white at Ikea.) I love that I can tell right away each of my kids’ silhouettes. Baby Billy Goat’s is the hardest because he’s grown so much since he was a 10 month old living here! But I still love them all! And I thought the family at the beach shot from a few months ago when we had a chance to take Midge with us to beach night was a cute family silhouette idea, too.IMG_7619 IMG_7620

 

Oh, and the Scrabble letters!! They are from JoAnn’s and I love them. Greg and I like Scrabble and they add a little unexpected touch. The word “rejoice” above our old family portrait is just stuck up with Quake Hold so I can change the word when I want. I also plan to buy a cross for each member of the family as they get older and decide to get baptized. All in all, I love it! Can’t wait to see it with curtains! But I’m guessing that will be a while. I had a whole list of projects I was going to do during A’s three hours at kindergarten, but Midge has stolen those away by returning to us, and I couldn’t be happier. IMG_7616

Midge is Coming Back!

I can’t really believe it and it’s probably only for a short time, but Midge is coming back to us on Sunday! Her dad has been doing really well with her but he did make one stupid mistake that was out of compliance with his trial custody (nothing that put Midge in danger, if it is what he said it is. Of course, there could be more that I don’t know about…we don’t know many details.)

So at least until things are sorted out at court, she will stay with us again. We are so glad that she won’t be with strangers. The insane social worker we had before (the one who has always pushed for things we thought weren’t safe for Midge) told the dad that she shouldn’t come to us because we have too many kids. The dad insisted that she SHOULD come to us because she knows us and thank goodness, the placement worker called. She is currently in her own home staying with her aunt and grandma and her dad moved out so she could stay there until she has to come to us.

I imagine it will be weeks before I can get a straight answer about what’s going on, but for now, I’m rushing around prepping the house for our little girl to come back home.

I didn’t think there was much that could surprise me any more in foster care, but this one certainly surprised me. A wonderful, hectic, sweet surprise.

Five Weeks of Summer To Go…

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I have always scoffed at those parents who are counting down the days until their children go back to school in the fall. This is not the first time God has used His plans to humble me in my pride and judgment of others! I am constantly amazed at how much wisdom comes with age…and grateful for the growth even though it’s usually hard.

I haven’t written much about our newest fostering experience because we’ve been busy…purposely going places and planning activities every morning to keep us from getting on each others’ nerves.  And I also haven’t written much because I don’t really know how to explain this part of the fostering journey.

Our kids’ parental services were terminated last month, and a hearing has been set for November to terminate their parental rights. The county is looking into the paternal grandparents for permanent custody, but I’m assuming they were considered at the beginning of their two years in foster care, and there are big red flags at their house so we’re all guessing they won’t finish/pass the home study. So it could be that these kiddos will be with us forever.

I notice that most blogs I read don’t talk much about their older adoption kids’ behaviors very much. It’s a difficult topic, because you don’t want to write something negative that they will be able to read someday down the road. All of our kids, biological or not, cause us lots of trouble. Kids are a pain. But they’re also a joy. And older adoption kids are a pain and a joy, too. The beginning of the journey is always the hardest part. In the case of older child adoption, you’re teaching routines and rules and refining behaviors that have been ingrained for many years in their family culture. Adopting kids from a different culture adds to the strain of unifying a family of six different people. I consider our kids to be from a different culture not because they are a different nationality, which they are, and not because their skin is a different color, which it is, but because their family culture has been one of chaos and unpredictability, lacking respect for others, one’s body, and one’s future. And these kids love their family, of course!! We need to respect their innate need to love their family while completely going against all that their family culture stands for. It’s tricky.

I had guessed it would take six months for the family to feel “normal” again, and I’m wondering now if it might be a little bit longer. I don’t know. Things in the sibling rivalry department have settled down considerably, but there is a long way to go. The new kiddos’ behaviors have improved by light years, but there is a long way to go. Our attachments between each of the six members of the family who live here now have a long way to go, too. It’s difficult most days, but there are days when it’s not difficult and I see the light at the end of this tunnel.

I’m so thankful for all of the friends and family who join us on our outings, entertain our kids so Greg and I can get away for an evening, and generally do their best to love on the new kids right along with the old. I’m also thankful for daily “rest time,” dollar movies at the local theater, and the fostering stipend that has been used to sponsor various camps and activities I would have usually forgone! I wasn’t sure I’d make it through this summer…God does provide what we need when we need it, and not a moment before.

Summer So Far.

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We are exactly one third of the way through summer vacation at our house. In general, I am the parent who lives for the summer vacation days! I love the freedom and lack of structure that allows me to scoop up the kids and go on an adventure when the mood strikes!

This is not that kind of summer.

The week before school got out, I realized that this was going to have to be a totally booked up, totally planned out and overscheduled summer if I was going to make it through. The kids just aren’t adjusted to each other well enough yet to allow for many unstructured hours of playtime. Lack of scheduling ends in the three boys playing together, E complaining that nobody will play with her (never mind that she spends all the playtime trying to change or ruin their games) and there’s just bickering and annoyance all over the place. And since I need to be directly supervising all of their play, why not be out doing an activity somewhere so that at least we’re not destroying the house only to have to clean it up again?

So we haven’t had a full unscheduled day yet, and it’s going pretty well. I am booked up with at least one activity every day through the end of July. This week is VBS, next week we’re visiting my first three foster kiddos at their house a little over an hour away, then the kids are going to Grandma’s for an overnight. The next city over from us offers free recreation camps at local parks and we’re going to one of those next week as well. We’re taking advantage of the dollar movies that they offer around here for kids, too. And in August I’ve signed three of the kids up for a day camp…one for ballet, two for soccer.

I’m not a fan of rushing here and there, but I’m also not a fan of refereeing fights between the kids all day long, either. I’m hoping that if we do have these kids for the long run, by next summer the four of them will have bonded with each other enough that I won’t have to have another booked up summer like this again. This morning I saw Jake and E (the worst of the two bickerers) get along for the first time! Jake built a lego castle for E out of her birthday legos, and they were working together to try to keep Tyler and A from destroying it. (Do you see how I can see a victory even among the fighting of the morning?!)

Yesterday was a bad day with lots of tantrums and impatience and a cancelled visit for the little kids, which took away my two hours of respite and relaxation. We also had a visit from our case manager who told me that the kids’ parents’ services were terminated at court on Tuesday. There is a hearing set for November when they expect to terminate the parents’ rights.

The court has been asked by the dad’s attorney to look into the kids’ grandparents as guardians, but nobody expects them to pass the home study. Greg and I are at peace with whatever happens…God will keep these kids here if He wants them here, and if He does that, He will make a way for us all to attach and grow and thrive together for His purposes. They are nice kiddos and have accomplished an amazing amount of adjustment to boundaries and functional family living in only two months. We expect to see lots of growth and attachment and watch the bonds of family grow between us over the coming months. And if God moves them to the grandparents, we will always pray for them and wonder whether they were able to survive that lifestyle intact as fully functioning members of society.

One day at a time. That’s how we’re living this summer. A messy house, a lot more t.v. than usual, more money spent on camps and outings and distractions, and one day at a time.