Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Smiley Baby Weekend and A Submitted Home Study

We're off to the beach soon, and when we return, we'll be ready to dive into our summer. We did respite care for a 3 month old baby full of smiles over Memorial Day weekend. When the worker called, I was so happy that we were able to help out after the string of "no" that we'd given lately. 

It was another painless experience. We met Smiley, and 30 minutes later I left with her to take Miriam to a birthday party. The baby came along to bring flowers to cemeteries and to a Memorial Day barbecue at a friend's home. She woke up every three hours to eat at night and promptly went back to sleep. She was a pure delight, and Noah and Miriam were thrilled to hold her, tell her stories, and feed her. I was sad that J missed out on the little bundle, but there will be more chances. 

As I was talking to the worker about Smiley's respite, a call came in from Children's Division. When it rains it pours! It was our adoption worker inquiring about the siblings that we'd been asking about for the last nine months. It was finally time for staffing, and she wanted to ask if we wanted to be considered as their adoptive home. Many weeks ago, we talked to the kids' social worker who had promised to set up meetings with the current foster parents so that we could get more information about the kids' needs. That plan had never come to pass. After relaying the story to our adoption worker, we officially submitted our home study for consideration! I'm a little sick thinking about it. Now we wait. There will probably be weeks of silence, and all the while these two kids sit waiting for a family. 

It makes me crazy if I stop to think that we asked about them nine months ago. NINE MONTHS they've sat knowing they were headed for adoption but not moving. NINE MONTHS. A whole school year. And it will likely be months longer before they are placed in an adoptive home. The waiting is excruciating for me as a foster/adoptive parent. I can't begin to imagine what it is like for the kids. For our sisters who we knew needed to be back home after two weeks but who waited two months for their reunion. For the Brothers who were supposed to be here overnight but stayed five days waiting for the adults involved to get their ducks in a row. I'm realizing that these are not unique cases. They are the norm, at least in our experience. If waiting for certainty drives me crazy, just think what it does to a kid without the maturity to understand the big picture. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

One Month. Foster Updates.

As I was sitting in a MOPS meeting, two faces popped up on my phone. Two brown haired girls in cute little bathing suits grinning happily. And for the first time, my heart ached to snuggle them again.

Today marks a month since our girls reunited with their parents. What I've found in the past weeks is this. What we offered to their parents mirrors the interaction that we have had since the placement ended. We have been blessed beyond expectation with pictures, texts, and happy answers to my occasional check-ins. It has made me even more resolved to be involved with birth parents to the fullest extent that is safe and healthy for all involved.

We never heard anything more about our potential adoption placement. The last time we talked to their worker, we were the only family who had expressed interest in the two of them, and we were supposed to be arranging meeting with their foster parents to get more insight into their history and needs. Again, we have left it in God's hands and continue to pray for the two of them.

We've received three placement calls in the last couple weeks. We declined two that were within our age range. We offered our home as a last resort, then prayed like crazy for God's will, for the social worker making calls, and for the foster families answering their phones. We were never called back to say they needed us, and I felt ok with our choice to let our kids breathe a little while longer. The third call was for a child we are not equipped to care for.

I've been watching my kids over the past month, and I think, for the most part, they are ready to take on another placement. I am happy to have our vacation coming up in just two weeks. It gives us a nice, legitimate reason to wait on a placement and makes it easier for us to stick with what we believe is best for our kids in the long run.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Educating... At Home.

 I've been avoiding this post... 

As if our life wasn't already filled with constant change, God threw another curve ball at us two weeks ago. I am a full time teacher again, and in the last way I ever imagined. Our sweet Miriam has had a heck of a year in kindergarten. We had a couple blissful weeks in August, and then we watched as our gal struggled with the rigor and structure of kindergarten. I watched my daughter, who was joyful and who flourished in preschool, flounder in her new environment. In the second semester, she started learning new information that I never would have imagined could come from a kindergarten kid. She was told she should start smoking. She learned vulgar language. She had a child show her rolling papers and a ziplock of a substance that Miriam described as PopRocks. The child had snuck it from his parents and told her how to smoke it.

She- we- just couldn't do it anymore.

It absolutely tore me to shreds to sit with her teacher and tell her that we were going to see how homeschooling worked. She spent the year investing in my sweet girl and pouring everything she had into ensuring that Miriam was successful in school. I hated telling her that, after nine months of effort and worry and love, we were walking away. Who am I kidding? I hated that we were walking away. It was terrifying, and I was nauseous with self-doubt for days. I still am at times. It was possibly the hardest thing I've done as a parent, most definitely the most difficult decision we've had to make for Miriam.

So here we sit, two weeks into our homeschool life. To my surprise, Miriam has been a great student most of the time. She works hard and truly enjoys what we are doing together. She's reading for me, something that I hadn't been able to get her to do without a fight. We've done science experiments, met authors and illustrators, and attended play groups. We've attended Mass with at the nearby Catholic school and watched their kindergartners read from the bible in front of the entire parish. We have worked on phonics, math fact fluency, and handwriting. We have learned about place value, ocean waves, and the chemistry behind lip gloss. Exercise, music, and art fill our play time. We learn in segments and take breaks as Miriam needs them. Yesterday she insisted that we continue playing with math fact families 30 minutes after I was finished with her lesson. Miriam has written and mailed letters to some of her favorite people. Khan Academy and Teachers Pay Teachers have seen  more traffic from us than ever before.

I think to myself, "why weren't you doing all of this before?" And I remember the kid I picked up from school each day. The one who was so exhausted from holding it all together that she would melt down into a tantrum before I even had a chance to feed her a snack. The one who sometimes fell asleep on the way home from school and slept straight through to bedtime. The kid who just couldn't handle the idea of another second spent learning.

Yes, there is fear and doubt. There is much for this high school English teacher to learn about early elementary education. There are failures and there are still a few tantrums. But there is magic too. There is excitement and progress and a spark of genuine love for learning that I haven't seen from Miriam- maybe ever. It is the goodness that I am clinging to.

I'm not sure what our life will look like come fall, but over the summer, I'm turning this house into a school for all three of my kiddos- and any new ones who may come along. We're going to be exploring, stretching our minds, and searching for a LOVE for learning.