Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Last Spaulding Class and A Silly Phone Snapshot

Class dismissed!

We're another step closer to the finish line! Amos was a little sad to see our eleven week foster adoption crash course end tonight. The kids are sad that their regular visits with Grandma and Grandpa are over. They thought it was pretty neat that Mom and Dad were students. 


I've never been so thankful to for a class to be over in my life. I have a new appreciation of all you mommies who are also students. You all amaze me!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


THIS is sitting in my foyer right now. 

It is so strange to have a crib and no a baby growing inside me. Truthfully, seeing it sit there gives me a touch of baby fever. I need to store it away... and go cuddle my niece and nephew!

I mentioned my crib needs to my aunt and cousin who yard sale together nearly every weekend. They promised to keep an eye out, but my aunt said that she rarely saw the kind that would meet regulations. 

That was Friday. On Saturday morning, I got a call. They'd found a crib. $25. 

God is such an amazing provider!

In other news, We started our Spaulding adoption class last night. Lots of information- a few great tips that we hadn't considered before. And another open invitation to call with questions. One thing I can say about our division of child services is that they have a true open door policy. I so appreciate it! 

Our home study is a becoming more of a focus now. The home study is what a child's worker will use to narrow the interested families down to the ones they will meet and consider for the child(ren). It's the ONLY thing they will read to make that initial cut, so it's important that it accurately reflect our family. We'll be reviewing and finalizing it soon. I did wonder after class last night if it was possible to include a link to this blog. Has anyone else included a blog in their home study? 

The Missouri Heart Gallery is coming to my little town! It's going to be on display at our Fall Festival. I'm praying that lots of hearts are touched by the sweet faces of our waiting children. And who knows? We might connect with our child that day as well! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Empty Nest.. ish.

It feels CRAZY to have three kids in school. I might be sad about not being needed if I weren't so busy soaking up the silence and the luxury of cleaning my house alone. Days like these may very well be fleeting after all! 

Silly Miriam was such a trooper for the first day. She did a pretty great job of staying happy during the morning routine and was happy to pose with her Kindergarten sign before we left for school.
Miriam was sweet and excited to see her teacher when we got to her classroom, but I saw a hint of nerves under her smile. I stayed outside the room for a moment and watched her look around, take a breath, and join the other girls in their morning play time. She takes life in stride and at her own pace, and I love her for it.

Miriam and J are growing so much closer lately. It makes me happy to see J take her little sister under her wing! It's as if she turned thirteen and became this responsible young lady instead of the kid she was the day before. 

This is J's last year in middle school. I remember her first day in the building. I watched the 8th graders walk through the doors and had a little freak out moment thinking that my little girl was going to look like them in two years. And here we are. She walked through those red double doors one of the tall ones, one of the poised and confident ones. 

And then there's Noah, the goofy, determined kid who drove me crazy all summer. His hair was still wet when he buckled into the car, but his belly was full and his teeth were brushed. He walked into school with us, reciting directions to his classroom under his breath. We said goodbye by the main doors, and Noah walked off down the hallway away from the early elementary wing of the school without looking back.

These kids are my life. My love. My JOY. They might need me to be there fewer hours each day now, but they need me as much as ever. Maybe more. Now is when the parenting gets tricky. Growing up is serious business. It takes time, energy, and discipline to stay involved in my kids' lives once you're not afraid that they'll touch a hot burner or choke on their dinner. Now I have to fight the temptation to let them live alongside me instead of experiencing life with them. I struggle with that sometimes.

But right now, while we are still a five-some, I want to enjoy the simplicity and ease of living life with school-aged children. We can go more and play more. We can pack light and be spontaneous. After all, we still fit into a single hotel room. That's something worth celebrating!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Five Things I Didn't Know About the Foster System. And Ten Tips on Preparing For Placements.

Tonight was our last STARS class.

We met with and questioned a panel of characters who work within the foster system. Judge. Juvenile Officer. Licencing Supervisor. CASA worker. Investigating worker. Foster mother. Case Worker. Foster child. It was a whirlwind of questioning, acronyms, labels, suggestions, timelines. They offered great information, and we left with lots to think about. 

Nine weeks ago, we introduced ourselves to our classmates for the first time. A couple with 3 bio kids perusing adoption. 

Tonight as we introduced ourselves to the panel, I was excited to share that we were a couple with three kids open to foster care and adoption. It was as much a statement to myself as to the panel.

I scribbled lots of information in the next hour and a half.

Information about working within the foster system

1.  Family Support Team (FST)- a team consisting of anyone who interacts with the child. This is potentially giant group  of people. Bio and foster parents, caseworkers, counselors, teachers, day care providers, etc. These meetings occur at least semi-annually and additionally as needed.

2.  Permanency Planning Review Team (PPRT)- meets on a set schedule (within 72 hours of placement, monthly, semiannually)

3.  Court hearings:
Protective custody hearing must happen within 72 hours of child entering foster care.
Judication hearings take place within 30 days of placement
Review hearings and Permanency hearings happen periodically as well. 

4.  For hearings, foster parents are able to submit statements about the case to ensure that their voice is heard. We can request a Caregiver Court Report Form or communicate through our CASA (court appointed special advocate) worker.

5.  Speaking of CASA workers, these individuals are volunteer advocates for the children. They meet with the kids/foster parents monthly and help advise the judge on the child's progress and future.

We heard a lot of great information about helping a child settle into our home when they are placed with us. 

1.  Kids are largely a blank slate when they come to our home. They have their own set of normal that are very different from normal in our home. The kids have to learn procedures, rules, expectations, the layout of the home. All of this while reeling from being removed from their parents.

2.  Show them where the bathroom is.

3.  Keep basic toiletries on hand (toothbrush, kids toothpaste, soap, hairbrush)

4.  Consider creating "welcome packages"

5.  Find out their favorites (color, snack, movie, book) and incorporate them SOON.

6.  Make sure they have something of their own (it might be the first thing they've ever owned).

7.  They need their own space or place to keep their things, even if it's simply a dresser and bed.

8.  The foster mom on the panel let her kids paint their rooms when they arrived at her home. How cool is that?

9.  When the kids come to us, they come with lots of stories and baggage, and they will  (hopefully) begin to open up to us about their lives. The investigative worker practically begged us, "DO NOT REACT WITH SHOCK!" If the kids think we can't handle their problems, they will feel like they have to handle it alone.

10.  As I was listening to the advice on preparing for our first placements, I was reminded of my experiences planning for my children to be born. How would I get in touch with Amos when I went into labor? What if he was out of town or in a meeting? We needed someone on call to care for the older kids when labor started (and a backup caregiver). I had my mom ready to accompany us to the hospital for extra support. When we came home with our new baby, we welcomed extra hands to help with the transition. We ran on little sleep, and it was so helpful when someone offered to entertain our older kids and give them some extra attention.
Expecting a placement seems much the same. We need a Placement Call Plan. How will we handle the calls? What questions will we want to be sure to ask? At what point can I accept a placement if I can't get in touch with Amos? What are our deal breaker issues?

Tonight was our last STARS class. We made it! 

Sort of. Now we take the Spaulding class for adoptive families and wait for our home study to be finalized. Then we meet with our licensing worker to (hopefully)  finalize our license and get the show on the road!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crunch Time: Prayers Needed in the Coming Days

The summer has, once again, slipped through my fingers. It's back to school soon. Miriam's first year in elementary school. J's last year in middle school. My first year with all three kids in school all day. I keep getting questioned,

"What are you going to do now that they're all in school?" 

Honestly, I'm uncomfortable with this question. I wish I wasn't. I want my days to be cleaning, cooking, volunteering, to be excited to get the kids home to an after-school snack and debriefing, with enough energy left to be a wife when Amos gets home. That's what I'm called to do. But the "excuse" to stay home runs out when your kids hit Kindergarten. 

My usual answer to the big questions is "I'm going to spend the first semester helping in the kids' classrooms,  enjoying a house that stays clean and laundry that is caught up." I add that I might substitute come second semester if I have too much time on my hands. I guess that is the plan. For now. But once we finish classes next week and find out for certain that we are licensed to adopt, my answer will change a bit. Instead of talking about substituting, I'll be sharing with everyone that we're waiting for our newest child(ren).

I'm giddy excited. And paralyzed with fear. 

To this point, our path has been very private. We've shared our story with my family and our closest friends (and of course the entire blog community!), but only word of mouth has taken the news any further. I've mentioned before that we're in the midst of a two-way interview. We haven't been offered the job, and we haven't had a chance to accept the position. Yet

It's crunch time. We're six days away from finishing our licensing class. Then it's time to make some very complicated decisions. 

Will we adopt? Will we foster? Both? What type of fostering will we be open to? What works for our family? Where is God leading us? 

I am desperately reaching to God. Relying on Him. Praying, praying that we are able to follow His lead.

What I want to ask of you is this:
Will you pray for us in the coming days? 

My God, our God, is wildly amazing. The way he loves me takes my breath away. I am so undeserving of his grace and mercy! We are blessed beyond words to be walking beside him, to be an instrument of his peace.

Amos and I need wisdom. We need time to be silent and listen to God. We need to walk by faith which takes courage. We need courage. We need to trust God with our family, trust that he is present and working in the hearts of all of our children, those already under our roof and those who are not yet with us. We are so appreciative of any and all prayers and petitions that you are so kind to offer on our behalf! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Big Stuff: Talking With My Kid About Death and Loss

There are a dozen things swirling in my mind tonight. 

We had a really great meeting with our social worker this morning and gained some great insight into foster adoption. 
My Sweet J comes home in just 21 hours. I can't express how excited we all are for her to be back under our roof! 
I've been working my tail off to create a structured bedtime routine- for myself and the kiddos- in preparation for the school year.

But what I'm thinking about most is my sweet Noah and how happy and sad I am to see him processing through losing his great-grandma. 

On Thursday, the kids and I were going with my mom to the cemetery to take wildflowers to Grandma's grave. When it came time to leave, Noah didn't want to go. He said simply, "No one else died. Why do I need to go?"  I had a feeling he was nervous about being there again, so we let him stay at work with Daddy...

...We made a run to the farm store this evening. We decided to grab pizza on the way home so dinner would not postpone our bedtime routine. While waiting for pizza, we let the kids walk on the walking path across the street. 

The plan: start from opposite ends of the path, high five when they met on the "road," and meet back at the car. 

Miriam walked about ten feet, then took off jogging in her little Old Navy flip flops. She tripped. Amos and I watched as her big brother hurried over, put his arm around her and helped her back to Mom and Dad. Her lip, knee, and hand were scraped and bleeding. There was a little crying, but the injuries were barely worth a band-aid.  Cuddles were given, pizza was purchased, and we were on our way home.

In the middle of teasing his little sister (or being scolded for it), poor Noah burst into sobbing tears, saying over and over that he was scared of dying. He didn't want to ever die.  It would be dark when he died. The five minutes we drove to get home seemed like twenty. Trying to talk Noah through his fear from the front seat of the car was less than ideal. 

I never would have guessed an event like would bring my son's grief to the surface.

When we got home, I snuggled my son on our couch until he stopped shuddering. I was glad to have the time to collect my thoughts. We have talked about Jesus, death, and Heaven many times, but this needed to be a whole different conversation. Noah and my grandma were thick as thieves. Any generous person with candy on hand is a person Noah loves, and Grandma loved Noah's silly nature and the way he'd grin and ask for "cookies for the road" when we visited. They spent lots of time visiting together. 

When you're seven and you have to bury someone so close to you, it brings up a lot of emotions and questions. 

Noah was mostly concerned with the feeling of death. He was afraid it would hurt. Scared he would die soon in his life. He couldn't imagine how he'd be able to see in Heaven without his eyes. Tough questions with no easy, logical answer. He was afraid he would be scared when he died.

We shared about our trust in God and how we know he'll be with us always and through everything. We talked about how blessed we are by Jesus' death and resurrection. How because of Him, it won't be dark after our time on Earth is over. And I told Noah Heaven is greater than anything our simple human minds can imagine. I was able to tell him how Grandma told me not so long ago that she wasn't scared of death. She'd lived a good life, and she knew where she was headed next. 

As sad as I was for Noah tonight, I was so blessed to be able to share such precious time with him! Talking to Noah about the tough stuff is when he and I connect the most. We talk honestly, share our hearts, and build trust in each other. I am so honored and thankful to be trusted with his heart it's the most difficult for him to share it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seventh STARS Class and Foster Parenting Tidbits

I'm still processing my thoughts on our discipline lass from two weeks ago, but last night's STARS class was about permanency and the importance of lifetime relationships for all children.

Thoughts that I loved from this class:

1) If you adopt a child outside your culture/race, think of your family as a multicultural unit, not a family who is learning about the new kids' culture and background.

2) When you adopt, you are permanently tying your family to another (the child's birth family), even if you never see or speak to them again.

3) You absolutely MUST be at peace with your child loving and missing their biological family, even after adoption. Perhaps especially after adoption. It's best if you can find a way to celebrate and remember the bio family much like you would a relative who has passed away.

4) It is the goal of Children's Division to have a child in a permanent family within two years of entering the foster system.

The class discussion veered off course a bit and ended up highlighting a few interesting facts that I didn't know about foster parenting. Of course, all policies vary from state to state and can change.

1) It tuns out that you have to be specially licensed to care for kiddos with more severe behavioral/emotional issues. Because we won't be being licensed those areas, we most likely won't be risking exposing our children to extreme behavioral/emotional issues.

2) Anyone can be approved as Respite Care Providers, and that doesn't put them on some list that would make them available to any foster parent's request. What that means is that we can continue to use our normal alternative child care options (largely my parents) for all of our children while we wait for the adoption to be finalized. The adults in the house just need to get fingerprinted and have a quick walk-through done of their house.

3) There are several "types" of foster parents. Some are signed up to be strictly emergency care providers and would only be offering temporary short term care. Emergency care might include a situation where a non-offending parent lived far away and couldn't come to pick up the child for a day or two. It could also happen that a grandparent or another relative was able and willing to take the child but had to have a background check and home walk-through completed.

4) A foster parent can make decisions about a foster child's prescription medications, routine medical care, and education, but foster parents CANNOT cut the child's hair without permission from the biological parent. I love this one. It makes me smile. A birth parent can also decide whether his/her child leaves the state with a foster family. If a biological parent really wanted to be the one to experience the beach with their child, she has the right to request that the child stay behind. I'd never thought about vacationing with foster kids from the biological parents' viewpoint, but it has to be SO HARD to watch your kid go on a fabulous trip with another family. Guilt, insecurity, loss, fear... not fun.