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Brother-Sister-Friends Forever

11/17/2014

After living for three months as (foster) brother and sister in the summer of 2013, Termain and Alianna will always think of each other as brother-sister-friends it seems, and I hope it stays that way. (He was originally nicknamed Buzz Lightyear here.) I’m beyond grateful to his mom allowing us to stay a part of their lives as friends (that still feel a lot like family) over a year after they were officially reunified. A couple Saturdays ago we had the privilege of babysitting Termain for several hours. We get together every few months but this is the first time he was with us without his mom. We were all a little nervous about how he’d do, since being at our house stirs up a lot of traumatic memories from the time he was separated from his mom. Thankfully, he did great! He and Ali play so well together and their love for each other is obvious.

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I just realized I never shared the photos from our last visit with them at Baby Vegas (AKA Chuck E Cheese) for his 4th birthday back in September. They wanted to do every game together.

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Buzz Visit at the Mall

02/19/2014

Guess who we saw on Saturday! It is such a gift to be friends with this boy’s mama and to get to watch these two kids playing together again. I told Ali once that Buzz was “kind of like a brother.” She answered, “A brother and a friend.”

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Also, this kid has grown so much! I knelt down to give him a hug and I had to half-stand back up. He’s out of the toddler sizes already and he’s not quite 3.5.


Bee Flew North

12/31/2013

OK, actually she was driven North. I mentioned before Christmas that Bee was given an unexpected family pass to spend the holidays in Wisconsin with her grandparents and extended family. We met her grandma, great-aunt and great-grandma for dinner at Chilis the Friday before Christmas to get to know them a bit more before the send off. They’re very sweet people and I know Bee is in good hands. DCS extended their permission until January 13, her next hearing date because her grandma was planning on coming back down for the hearing anyway. It’s kind of weird…we technically still have a foster placement, Bee is officially still our foster daughter, but she’s not here. Although we do miss her, it’s been a nice break, too. After Buzz left I realized the unnatural circumstances that often come with foster care where the number of children in a household sometimes decreases. An additional child is a big adjustment and then reducing back down to one child from two feels like such an easy break. We’ve been enjoying soaking up lots of time with our amazing 2.5 year old Alianna. She is such a joy and a delight. Also, we got to see Buzz again. He and his mom came to the Christmas service at our church.

Bee all packed and ready to go. Have you ever seen a foster child come with such nice luggage?!

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Two of her three Christmas presents from us. I opened them the night before she left.

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Send-off day.

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We soothed ourselves with ice cream after the send-off dinner.

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Ali showing off a gift from our neighbor, pocket babies.

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Christmas church service:

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Buzz came back…

12/30/2013

with his mom for dinner! (Side note: Our current foster placement is nicknamed Bee and our last foster placement was nicknamed Buzz [Lightyear]…Unintentional!)

Buzz was with us for three months, May-July this year. He returned home to his mom at the beginning of August for a 90-day trial period. She passed all of her requirements with flying colors and Buzz is now officially out of state custody. I could share his real name, I suppose but I’ll keep it Buzz for now. His mom did give me permission to share photos of his face though.

We got together for visits a couple times during the 90-day period and it always took Buzz a long time to warm up to us. I imagine it stirs up all kind of mixed feelings about being separated from his mommy for so long. We’ve all become like friends/family through this foster care experience so we’re hoping he’ll get more comfortable with seeing us. Buzz’s mom wanted to celebrate with us once he was finally officially out of custody. I felt like it was the right time to finally invite her to our house. She had only known the general area where we lived. I figured she’d enjoy seeing where he spent most of 3 months this summer. We were all hoping it would be healing for Buzz to come back to our house again too, and then to leave with his mom. Closure.

So Buzz and his mom came over for dinner two days before Bee arrived (in November…I’m posting this late). I didn’t take a lot of pictures because these two got crazy once they got over the initial awkwardness. At first Buzz was clinging to his mom and wouldn’t even let her put him down. Eventually we moved to the playroom and he couldn’t resist playing with Ali. He’s taking gymnastics and karate so he showed off lots of moves. Ali now knows how to build a tower of blocks and chop it down with a “Hi-yuck!” as she says.

Their dinner visit went really well. It was also loud and crazy and reminded me of how stressful and tiring that season of our lives was. I’m really thankful that we were able to be there for Buzz and his mom during that time but I’m also really thankful they’re back together.

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Boundaries

08/13/2013

I don’t think much about my personal space—the imaginary hulu hoop sized air around me—until someone invades it. I’m sure it’s happened to you, too. You meet someone for the first time and within minutes she’s talking with her face less than a foot from yours. You take a step back but she doesn’t get the hint and moves towards you again. Similarly, I had boundaries in my life that I wasn’t aware of until they had been crossed by Buzz, our recent foster son. The two major ones were related to sleep/wake times. These are personal and different for every person, but I hope to encourage you if you have boundaries you’ve allowed other to cross – reclaim your personal space!

First it was at bedtime. Buzz would get very emotional and needy (AKA stalling…) at bedtime. In order to help ease his transition, I would put Ali to bed first and rush because he was a distraction to her. She would get upset but I knew she’d recover and go to sleep on her own. I’d end up reading him a couple more books in his room, saying night time prayers, letting him watch videos his mom sent saying goodnight, put on music and then, by his request “stay,” I’d set at the foot of his bed until he fell asleep. After a while of this, Jason challenged why I was doing this. It was dragging out his bedtime longer and later and eating up my very limited time at the end of the day for me (doing dishes, tidying up, writing blog posts, showering, laundry, spending time with Jason, paying bills, etc.). I started reducing the time I would sit in his room rather than waiting for him to fall asleep. 10  minutes. 5 minutes. I stuck at 5 minutes for a while and Jason challenged me again – “LIke a bandaid, ” he said, quoting Seinfeld, “Right off!” The first night that I kissed him goodnight and left his room without answering his plea to “stay!” he cried for a minute, then Jason went in and told him to stop and go to sleep. He cried for about 30 seconds more and then went to sleep. That was the end of that! I got my nights back. I also realized that it was unfair to Ali to be rushed to bed and to lose that one-on-one time at the end of the day. At that point I started alternating. One night I would read books to both kids in Buzz’s room, tuck him in and then go with Ali into her room to tuck her in. The next night I would read books to both kids in Ali’s room, tuck her in and then go with Buzz into his room to tuck him in. They both really seemed to like and understand this system and would always remember which night it was for books in which room.

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The second area of boundary crossing was in the mornings. Parenting Buzz was our first experience with a kid who sleeps in a bed rather than a crib. That was a level of freedom around the house that required us to set boundaries for his safety. We were totally learning as we went. The first time he let himself out of the house during nap time was a huge eye opener. After some very serious talks and consequences, we didn’t have any repeat incidents, though we had to remind him several times (during waking hours) not to let himself out of the house without permission. He’s a smart kid but also very resourceful. The problem with mornings was that his wake times were all over the place. 5:30 one day. 7:00 another day. I’d have to wake him up at 8:30 another day. My pre-Buzz morning routine was to wake (gradually…)  at 6:30, spend time with God and a cup of tea from 7-7:30, take care of the dog and get ready for work from 7:30-8:30. Ali would get up around 8:30 too. Buzz’s random wake up times hijacked my mornings.  I lost my easing into the day, my alone time, my quiet time with God, my chance to take Lucy for a walk, my time to shower and get ready uninterrupted. (Side note: I’m very intentional about being the first one up so I can prepare for my day and prepare to receive my family in the morning.) It took me two months to realize that I didn’t have to give up my mornings. I was my choice. I am the parent. I could set a boundary line around this sacred time and enforce it. We got a special clock for Buzz’s room that lights up when it’s ok to come out of the bedroom. It took him a while to get the hang of it but it restored my mornings for the most part. I’d often have to take him back to his room, where he’d pout and fuss but eventually he would look at books or pick out his clothes for the day and wait until the clock lit up (at 8 am, if you’re curious).

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There were lots of other areas where boundaries were crossed and then more clearly established (just as with parenting any child) but these two areas were key to my sanity and my relationship with the rest of my family during the 3 months that Buzz was with us. They also gave me some wisdom and experience before we gave Ali the same freedom.

This is part 1 of a 2 part prelude to my post about transitioning Ali to her big girl bed that’s coming later this week.


Saying Goodbye

08/02/2013

From Instagram this morning:

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I sent him off to day care this morning with this: “If your case worker comes to pick you up, don’t be scared; it means you’re going home with your mom. If I come pick you up it means you’re coming home with me. I’ll always love you. There’s a place in my heart that’s only for you. You’ll always be a part of our family and you’re always welcome at our home.” Hearing at 11 CST. Prayers appreciated.

From Facebook later this morning:

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Back to a family of 3 again. I’m so happy for “Buzz” and his mom! And I was doing just fine emotionally until his mom started sending me the sweetest texts to say thank you to Jason and me and promising to keep in touch. Foster care working the way it’s supposed to work…to God by the glory! What a wonderful answer to prayer.


Reflections from the Maybe Finish Line

08/01/2013

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It’s been three months since a shy and wide-eyed little boy showed up in our kitchen at 1am on a rainy Friday night. When I look back at the pictures from his first weekend with us my first thought it, wow, he looks haggard! Poor guy was exhausted. The first week he had a hard time sleeping and would get out of bed, turn on the light, pace around, sometimes curl up with a blanket on the floor or in the chair in his room, dropping books and sippy cups and generally keeping everyone awake. By the end of his first week he was sleeping in his bed with the light off and it was no small victory. Several times in the weeks to follow he would get frightened by a sound a night, jump out of bed, put his shoes and jacket on and get ready to haul out of there. I’m happy to say that hasn’t happened in a long time. He’s even been fairly good about staying in his room in the morning until his Ok To Wake clock lights up. (More about that another time.)

I’ve already written about his progress in expressing his emotions. Buzz doesn’t talk well. He talks a lot but doesn’t articulate very precisely. That means it’s often hard to know what he’s thinking or feeling or even asking for sometimes, and it’s frustrating for all of us. Through a combination of learning and attempting lots of new words and me learning his “language” I feel like we’ve made great strides in our communication. He’s great about saying “thank you” and “your welcome.” He still defaults to “I want more” instead of “more please” but he’ll ask nicely (vs. tell me what he wants) if I remind him. He always wants milk to drink and we’ve progressed from pointing at the fridge and saying, “right there” to “ba” to “bilt” to “milt” sometimes. Progress, see! He’s getting better about apologizing after hurting someone/something or being disrespectful, though it still sounds like he’s saying, “I die” instead of “I’m sorry.” But it’s wonderful that he’s starting to develop true remorse for his actions rather than just seeing what he can get away with. Here’s an example:

Sometimes Ali and Buzz play together in the playroom while I’m in the kitchen. Often it results at some point with Ali crying and Buzz meeting me in the hallway to say, “Sorry!” This happened recently. “Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to Ali,” I said…again. I followed him into the playroom. Ali was upset but didn’t seem hurt. I’m guessing he had pushed her out of his way to go down the slide and she had fallen down. He told her he was sorry just as I had asked. I suggested he help her up. Much to my surprise, he bent down and gave her a hug. And then a kiss. And then helped her up. Oh my heart! This is the boy who usually loudly protests and pushes her away anytime she tries to give him a hug. I think he must have actually felt bad for hurting her!

He can be so sweet and helpful when he wants to be. I believe this is one of his gifts and a strong pillar of his character. I affirm it every time I see it. He can be so defiant and mean sometimes, so careless—pushing other kids out of his way or stepping on other kids’ hands or toys. And then other times he’s the most thoughtful, helpful kid I’ve ever seen. The other day I was helping Ali practice peeing on her potty chair. He went off to her room to get a new diaper for her without me asking. When she’s done, he’s always eager to take care of cleaning out the pee pan. Sometimes I have to ask several times but he is an amazing help for cleaning up and organizing. He remembers where every bit and piece goes and makes sure everything is in it’s place—all the blocks are accounted for, Ali’s babies end up back in her crib, his shoes goes in the organizer in his closet, his empty cup goes in the sink, an old sticker or bandaid goes in the trash can, his backpack is hung on it’s hook. Yesterday I was scrambling to get both kids ready and out the door on time. He helped me out by feeding Lucy, picking out and putting on his own shoes (wrong feet but good enough!), picking out Ali’s shoes and putting Lucy in her crate when it was time to go. Gosh, I’m going to miss that! I guess I need to do better about giving Ali chores. If he was with us longer, I think I would start making specific chores for Buzz to do everyday to earn rewards – he really seems to flourish there and is so proud of himself when he’s accomplished a task I’ve asked him to do.

I could tell he had grown a lot since he’s been at our house because pants and shorts that were loose now fit snugly. I weighed him the other day and not surprised to see that he had gained 3 lbs. in 3 months! He’s a tall and thin little guy. He’s also grown 2-3″ taller. Is that possible?!  He’ll be 3 years old next month and he’s been wearing 4T clothes (3T bottoms when he arrived but now they’re all getting too tight, and pants are definitely too short) and size 9 or 10 shoes depending on the style. He’s pretty clumsy…falling, tripping, running into stationary objects and other kids…which is probably due to how fast his body is growing. At the same time, he’s very athletic. He’s got a great arm for throwing balls and is great at riding on the balance bike we’re borrowing from a friend. He runs fast and is a great climber.

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