Sacrifices

I didn’t believe it was ever going to snow this year, but it finally did. I was on my way to see my dad. He was scheduled for surgery. I watched the snow fall from his hospital room window as we waited for the nurse to tell us it was time to take him to the operating room.

I wish as a child you could understand the deep love parents have for you. I remember being a moody teenager refusing to talk to my Dad. I made him cry and broke his rules. I wish I could go back.Β  I’ve always loved my parents but now as a adult I truly realize the sacrifices they have made for me. I now know that they were the only ones who really ever had my back.

My Dad taught me how a man should treat his wife and provide for his family. How to play with your kids and teach them about life every chance you get. I become that much more passionate about being the best foster parents we can be when I think of the love my parents show me. I want to be those people there for them in the worst times of their life.

He laid in his hospital bed cracking jokes about which son can have his rolling tool box and who gets his saw. Probably mostly to keep my Mom calm. We laugh along but deep down inside terrified of the day that will actually happen where his things will be inherited.

His surgery had been pushed back several hours. We were enrolled in a continuing education class that evening for fostering. Mid surgery we had to leave to get to this evening class. On the way we were stuck in traffic at a complete stand still due to a accident. We called the instructor to let them know but had to run into the building to avoid at 15 minute cut off. We made it in time. We sat in a room with a group of other foster parents with bags under their eyes in their work uniforms eating a bite really quick for dinner. My Mom text me during class a picture of my dad giving the camera a thumbs up! Thankfully, he got through his procedure without any complications.

I have changed my status from working full time to be able to stay at home with my kids. Now that our home is empty we have felt thatΒ financial strain of that sacrifice. Our case worker said there has not been any little ones taken into care in our county and things have been slow so I have been back to work part time.

2016 goes down in history. It’s been hard and messy but has shown us the intense love a parent can feel. Our hearts, time, jobs and relationships have all been sacrificed to make our dream of fostering come true and we don’t regret it one bit.

Unnesting

It began pouring cats and dogs when we placed the baby with his grandma, in the parking lot of Arbys. This is foster care, awkward and messy. I carried the boxes and bags to her quickly. As we stand in the cold, pouring rain exchanging things she begins to thank me, she tells me she will keep in touch with us “because he loves you too.” I almost lost it. This made the transition a little easier. The worst part is the fear you’ll never get to see them grow up and they’ll forget your face. She told me she would put a picture of us on his dresser and always tell him how special we were. That is the best thing you could ever say to a foster parent.

Later that evening we picked up some dinner and came home. I don’t think it really hit me yet. We have had kids in our home for the last 10 months. We had no break in between placements and were denied vacations from birth parents. I walked up the old wooden steps quietly, half way up remembering I didn’t have to anymore. This morning I’m kind of lost but I continue to watch the clock and think hes probably hungry or sleepy right now.

When you’re expecting a new baby you wash all their new clothes given to you from a baby shower and hang them up by size. You set up their crib and put all the newborn diapers in place. But when you foster, you keep putting things away. You may take it down and prepare to restart. When each time a child goes home I feel the need to go through their closets organizing, I clean everything for the next children. I put away the bottle rack and warmer, the bath tub, swings and jumpers. I call it ‘unnesting’.

You pack their things and put away what you may use for the next. You move the coffee table back where it belongs because there’s no babies rolling around today. πŸ™‚ Its crazy to go from potty training age, then back to infant and with each child you have to learn where they are with their milestones and maybe start all over again.

Here are 5 quick tips for nesting and unnesting for foster care:

  1. You can never have enough storage bins! I feel like I’m always buying them and still can’t fit all my clothes. I even send home lots of outfits. I love shopping for kid clothes. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Convertible everything. I have the 4ever Graco seat that we’ve used on our newborn and our 18 month old and we love it. Only down side is when they’re tiny you gotta wake them up to go into a store. We kept a carrier in the trunk for the cart. Convertible baby tubs with a sling that is removable. Cribs that break down to toddler beds to twins. Bottles that turn into sippy cups. There are even high chairs that turn into little desks, its getting crazy guys! Not only are you saving, its very convenient to always be ready no matter the age.
  3. Try to Stay organized. Key word try. This makes it easier to find what you need, when you need it. One way is with toys, I keep a bin with baby toys, one with baby dolls and girly things and ones with trucks and boy things for the living room, everything else stays in the playroom. That way toys are not taking over your floors and you can take down what you need. Although most of the time kids will play with whatever.
  4. Make a kids kitchen cabinet. This one is full of the colorful plastics. Their sippy cups, bottles, plates, thermos etc. This has helped with loosing lids and all the little pieces and I’m able to find what I need.
  5. Keep diaper boxes. They become very convenient when you need something to transport their clothes and toys in, if they move.

What do you do when a placement leaves? How do you unnest?

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Kids Cabinet

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Toy Bins

With Heavy Hearts

We knew this day would come, but hoped not so soon. Our little guy is going to be placed with his Grandmother while his birth parents work through their issues. So many emotions are going through my head right now. I’m not sure if I should be angry? Happy? Relieved? Depressed? I loved this boy with all my being but the thought that he wasn’t ‘all mine’ was always right there. I get overwhelmed thinking I have to perfectly articulate his transition. I spent several hours today typing out his daily schedule, what calms him down and the foods hes tried so far. I type, and then back space again and again. Am I going over board? Does this make me look like I think shes incapable? I wrote a brief letter thanking her for someone stepping up and loving him but do I sound sarcastic?

I started getting some of his things ready to go. As I keep these kids, I look at all their toys and clothes and think what I’m going to send with them when they go home. I remember what they came with and what has memories. That day is always on my mind. How is there a correct way to tell a five month old, I love you but Mommy and Daddy won’t be back to get you. It feels like you’re letting them down.

I’m disappointed in the way things are handled and the lack of care given for these kids futures. Blood is best, repeat that and remember it. The only question we were told that had a wrong answer on the home study was “Do you think its in the best interest of the kids to be reunified with family?” I may answer this differently depending on the case, but I know the answer they want to hear.

I question myself, would I rather grow up with my grandma or adoptive parents? A question I’ll never be able to answer. I read another blog that someone so selflessly stated why would you want to keep these kids away from someone else who loves them? That is how I’m looking at it. I’m not going to get in the way of his Grandmothers love.

I do this for the kids, and I’ll keep doing it. Not for the birth family, not for the case workers, not for the state but for each individual little soul that walks through my door. As long as I loved them as much as I could and raised them as best as I can, I’ve been successful. I’m trying to not think of ourselves as failures.

He has certainty touched my life. I’ll never forget his sweet morning smiles and ticklish giggles. May his Grandmother soak in every sweet moment and milestone he crosses. I will let my heart grieve but try to remain positive.

Mom & Dad?

2-galaxy-2016-573There is a lot of awkward moments you come across in foster care and the title of Mom & Dad is a huge one. For babies, its more natural but for a 5 year old, it is not. This is a difficult age to the contrary of what we thought. A 5 year old knows shes not with her parents, and something bad happened but not old enough to be able to understand why she had to be taken away. We have a 5 year old nephew. He is awesome, easy going for the most part and oh so lovable. We accepted up to this age in hopes that he could have someone to play with. Actually we originally agreed to ages 0-4 but we pushed the limits for this sibling group. We had to change our paperwork and resign it. You also have a character check list your family decides are some things you’re willing to consider. These things can be as simple as a peanut allergy to sexual abuse victim. It seems harsh to go ahead and uncheck the more complex life’s these innocent kids have been burdened with, but you HAVE to be honest. You need to really understand what you are mentally, physically, emotionally ready for. In retrospect we were probably not ready for the whole Kindergarten thing and all of the hard emotions she came with but I do not regret our decision to take them into our home. This 5 year old had a really hard time dealing with emotions. She would shut down when you tried to show any sort of affection. We did not overwhelm her with hugs and kisses but we did continue to tell her we loved her as she walked into school and tuck her in every night. We rented the Tangled movie and she covered her eyes and hide behind the couch when they mentioned love. I know, I know this is the cooty age, but this was something more. It made us incredibly sad to see her uncomfortable with a very natural part of life. For a long time she has not felt that love. She was simply in survival mode. She loved being tucked in at night. This became a time she would usually let down her guard. She began to ask every night to be tucked in. I would cover her up, tuck her in and tell her I loved her. Then one day as I walked out of her room and flipped off the light she said “I love you!” With a huge smile, I told her again that I loved her. This is a huge milestone. These are things you picture yourself doing as a foster parent and showing them loads of love but I guess I never considered, what if they wont accept our love? She never called us mom and dad, although sometimes we would refer to each other as so. When speaking about her biological parents she would say “my other mom and dad…”, she viewed us as her parents. I’ll never forget the day I took the kids to the park. They were playing the classic freeze tag. This boy ran up and froze her. She playfully cried “help!” I ran over and unfroze her and she yelled to the boy “my mom unfroze me!” Time froze forΒ  me. All those sleepless nights and tantrums paid off. I can never replace her birth mother. I just want her to feel the love a mother can give. The safe person a mother is.

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The first 72 hours

Our foster children were placed in our home. Now what? It was getting dark, I ordered a pizza for dinner. Something easy and who doesn’t like pizza, right? Our oldest sat on her bed, looked around her room and said “I love this!” However she was not going to put on pjs! No way! At this point I was picking my battles. For the first few nights she piled books on her bed and wanted to sleep with every stuffed animal in site.

Their first night in care was with another foster family and then they were transferred to us because we were closer to her school. The previous night at their first placement foster mom told me it was almost 4 am before they got to sleep. The first night is a time to just meet each other and slowly build trust. Don’t go too hard on the rules. Yes, they will need to follow a schedule eventually but for now, we survive. I had just finished putting on the baby’s pajamas as my husband came up the stairs. He got to meet our girls, we were instant parents. The most scariest and excited moment. The youngest just stared at you and had not made a peep. We weren’t sure if she even talked yet. The oldest was protective and mothered her little sister. She often worried about adult things like laundry and making sure things were out of reach. We always reminded her to let us worry about her little sister while she just worried about being a kid and enjoying life.

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My husband read the oldest a few books and then it was time to at least try to go to bed. The oldest cried and screamed. We watched with a baby monitor that she didn’t do anything that would hurt herself. It was a rough night to say the least, she kept coming into our room and this lasted for weeks. She was used to sleeping in a hotel room, all in one bed together so sleeping alone was a major adjustment. The youngest at 18 months would not go to sleep unless she was held and rocked, as soon as she hit the mattress she was up and at it again! Night time took the most work and required a ton of patience.

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We received gift cards to Walmart for initial clothing, shoes and diapers. This was extremely helpful as most of the time they come with absolutely nothing! The police did take their stroller from the hotel room and a few blankets. These blankets went straight to the wash as they heavily smelled of smoke. We kept the stroller on the porch to air out. I ended up pitching the baby’s shoes as they were unwearable. We took the girls shopping and let them pick out a few extra things like hair bows and Frozen hats. Their hair was beautiful. It took a few weeks for the smoke smell to get out and I had to learn how to maintain long, curly hair.

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Through out the day the girls were very hungry. The oldest would obsess over the next snack before she had even finished her first one. The youngest was extremely picky and only wanted junk food and absolutely no water! She also hated the high chair. We had a lot of work to do.

They were congested and overall ill. When kids are taken into care they are required to be seen by a doctor within the first 72 hours. You are provided with documentation that they are in your care, however most places will still call Children Services to verify. Most likely you will also not have their medicaid card yet but places are usually understanding and they can back pay. They were seen at a clinic who thankfully has walk in hours and prescribed antibiotics, nose spray and allergy relief. We picked these up from the pharmacy and paid out of pocket, we saved the receipts to turn in to be reimbursed.

On the 3rd day we had meet and greet with the girls father. Here we would let dad know how the kids are doing and he could maybe give us more information on the girls such as likes, dislikes and allergies. After the meet and greet dad was allowed supervised visit time. The agency would then transport them back to our house when the visit was over. It may very from county to county but here foster parents are required to provide up to at least 50% of the transportation.

Our oldest was also in school, we had to call and explain to the school she was taken into care. We came in to meet the teacher who loved her and was so understanding and loving. We’ve gone from no kids to straight to kindergarten.

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