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A New Ship for Bee

02/20/2014

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I wish I had written this blog post because it so perfectly illustrates the voyage of a foster parent: setting sail with hope despite the storm clouds ahead, being shaken to the core and finding hidden strength, forging unlikely partnerships, easing out of the storm, saying goodbye, and then steering straight back into the storm, empty-handed on the way back home. We’re at the point of saying goodbye—releasing our foster daughter onto a new ship. Go read this post because it says it better than I can say.

In front of you awaits a new ship, fresh with hope readied to empower your partners with a new chapter.

They surround you with hugs and thanks, and in a flash you and your forevers are left to steer that battered ship back into the raging storm of grief to begin again.

Your heart lurches in fear as your empty arms ache for the one to whom you gave your heart…

The son or daughter of your soul.

We say goodbye to Baby Bee this morning. All of her clothes, toys, bottles, bibs, burp cloths, hats, coats, diapers and toiletries are packed into her suitcase, backpack, storage tub and random bags. Her family is waiting with eager anticipation to get their hands on “our” chubby little nine-month-old, to see how much she’s grown in the past month and to kiss all over her impossibly soft cheeks. Their tears of joy will mix with our tears of sadness, soaking into the same precious child.

There is an expression I’ve been hearing lately—I don’t know the source—that seems to be the only way to describe this mix of things stirred up by foster care: I’m feeling all of the feelings. While we’re sad that she’s leaving, we’re also happy for her and her family. We’re tired and relieved to have a break. We’re hopeful for the future. We’re frustrated that a perfectly capable relative was kept away from Bee for three months solely because of state lines. (Had the relatives been in the same state as Bee, she never would have entered foster care.) We’re thankful for the cooperation and friendship with her biological family. We’re satisfied with good case workers, attorneys, CASAs and judges who do their due diligence. We’re glad that we were able to be there for Bee when she needed a home, loving parents, advocates and a big sister. We’re ready for what’s next because what’s next is rest.

For the next 19 days, I will be saying “no” to any new placement calls. After that, the next chapter of our story begins.

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The Good/Bad News

01/27/2014

I’ve had so much going on lately that I’m not even sure where to start with blogging. I haven’t had time to mentally pre-write any posts. Busy at work. Busy with family. Busy at home. I know: Everyone is busy. Blah blah blah.

The title of my post is in reference to this news: We got official word that Bee’s ICPC has been approved by both states. At this point we’re just waiting for the court date where the judge here will sign off on the transfer. I’m guessing it’ll be pretty quick.

It’s good news. Bee is 8 months old and hitting new milestones as fast as she can pull off her socks. She got her first two teeth while she was visiting her family over the holidays and I was happy they got that gift. She’s been THISCLOSE to crawling for a couple weeks now and I’m hoping they’ll get the gift of seeing her crawl for the first time. They’ll get to witness her first pulling up to a stand, her first steps, her 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th etc. words. She has a family that loves her and is able to care for her. It’s where she belongs. I’m grateful that it’s only been two months—for her sake, for her family’s sake, for our sake. Because, dang, we’ve fallen in love hard and fast.

It’s bad news because we’re going to miss her a lot. Bee is sweet, cuddly and easy to love. She’s been calling us Mama and Dada, which melts our hearts. Her family is kind but I’m not confident that they’ll stay in touch considering they’re 8 hours away and we’ve only had minimal phone conversations related to pick up and drop off in the past 2 months. Alianna has been such a wonderful big sister to her and I know this goodbye is going to be hard for her. She still prays for Buzz and his mom everyday. As soon as I got the news, Jason explained to Ali that Bee will be leaving soon to go back home with her family. “Why?” Because we’ve just been taking care of her for a little while. Remember why we do what we do? Just like for [Buzz], when kids need a safe place to stay and live while their family gets ready for them, we take care of them here. “Awe…” as she hugged her. “I love [Bee].” Then he reminded Ali that she’ll be staying here because she’s part of our family forever.

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Bee is Back

01/15/2014

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We spent most of our afternoon Monday at a hearing for baby Bee’s case. I expected it to be quick and straightforward but it was not. The magistrate was slow and careful; very impressive actually. His concern about Bee and what is best for her was very evident. The short story is that she can’t leave the state of Tennessee to go with her family until the ICPC paperwork is approved. (ICPC=Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) Her grandma in Wisconsin has had her homestudy done and the papers have been sent off. From my understanding the papers sit on someone’s desk until they’re signed and approved at the county level, regional level, state level and then are sent back to Tennessee. It commonly takes about 6 months. It’s been 2 months. In four months Bee will be turning one.

Bee was handed back to us on Monday after the hearing. She had a bit of a bumpy transition but now seems comfortable with us and our home again. She’s really a sweetheart and so easy to love. I’m happy to have her back. She is a joy.

Tuesday morning we got up before the sun to drop Bee off at daycare and then head to the courthouse again, this time with Ali, for a trial related to her baby sister Trust’s case. (Not her real name.) We brought Ali because her biological mom invited us to the trial and asked us to bring her since they haven’t seen each other in over two years. However, she didn’t show up. We did get to meet baby Trust and speak with her biological father, however not about our desire to have Trust with us. Those who are aware of our desire to have baby Trust with us so that the sisters can be together don’t really seem to care what we think or want (case workers, attorneys, etc.) The girls’ biological mom has more say than anyone else but if she doesn’t come to court that doesn’t help. I can’t give too much detail but suffice it to say, she’s staying with her dad’s friend—where she’s been since she was 2 weeks old—for now. There is a follow up trial in March and we’re planning to express our interest in legal custody through the court’s official process.

So…just one baby for now. I’m relieved to have only one baby but also disappointed that nothing really happened with Trust’s case on Tuesday. We didn’t even get to visit with Ali’s bio family as we had hoped. I did get a photo of the little girls together and it was a blessing to finally see Trust in person. I read this online yesterday and I’m clinging to it: “God is at work in your life right now. He is directing your steps. What you thought was a setback is going to turn out to be a setup.”

Bee is easy to love and I’m happy we can take care of her and meet her needs. We’ve formed a good relationship with her family so far and I know the Lord is using us and that Bee is right where she’s supposed to be for this season. I can hardly explain the ache and longing I feel for Trust, though. I have cared so deeply for her since I knew she existed and we all pray daily for her safety, for her needs to be met and for her to end up in the home where the Lord wants her to grow up. Her story is far from over.


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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Bee at 7 Months Old

12/19/2013

Bee turned 7 months old on the 17th. When I have time, I probably should look up what developmental milestones a 7-month-old should be hitting. Clearly I’m not concerned. LOL! She’s eating pureés when I get around to offering it to her. I’ve made all of her food so far besides the oatmeal cereal my mom bought us. She’s had carrots, banana, applesauce, broccoli. I have some sweet potatoes waiting to be prepared next. Banana was by far her favorite. I made a weird mix of carrot, broccoli, banana and oatmeal the other day and she gobbled it all down.

She’s babbling a lot. She yells when she’s upset, which is pretty much only when she’s hungry or lonely. Doesn’t cry much. Her babbles include: dada, baba, hi and mama. She said “mama” for the first time on the 17th and my heart melted. Ali wouldn’t say it until she was over a year old. Speaking of mama, we’re hopefully going to meet her grandmother this week who is trying to get custody. She’s had a couple visits with her mom so far and one with her dad.

Bee loves to stand and bounce (with assistance) and is working on learning to crawl. She’s not very good at sitting up yet but she’s an excellent roller. She’s a stomach sleeper so put down in any position she immediately rolls on to her tummy. At her 6 month doctor’s visit she weighed just shy of 20 lbs. and I can’t remember her height but she’s in the 95th percentile for height and weight. That means she is comfortably wearing 12 month size clothes. In fact, as Ali grows out of clothing, I’m just putting it directly into Bee’s dresser. She can wear some 18 month size too, and it hardly looks too big.

Girl came with a whole tub of clothes…that were too small. Of course, none of us realized that right away because there were lots of 6 month size. Only a few pieces worked. I had a handful of hand-me-downs in our foster care stash that were Ali’s and another foster mom leant me her stash. Eventually as time trickles on I’ll keep buying her more. We’re expected to spend at least $1/day on clothing. Two weeks in, I bought her first lot of clothes and spent pretty darn close to $14. Then this past week, I just broke down and spent over $100 on an order of more clothes from Old Navy. Her case worker raided the donation closet at DCS but said it was mostly 18 month size. I haven’t seen what she found yet but I’ll be happy if she has a decent fitting wardrobe to pass on to whoever she goes to next—which could either be her out-of-state grandmother or her mom depending on how things work out.

It’s safe to say at this point that she’ll definitely be here for Christmas. All of her presents are wrapped and ready to go. Her stocking has been made and hung with the rest of ours. I offered to get her picture made with Santa for her mom so I need to follow through with that this weekend. We’ve never done that before with Ali or any other kids so it should be interesting. Overall, Bee has been delightful. The sickness really knocked the wind out of us. Would you pray with me that Bee gets 100% healthy? She’s had a snotty nose and a cough since she arrived (and probably longer than that…) She’s got a good attitude though.

UPDATE: I was surprised to get the news this morning that Bee got special permission to spend the holidays with her out-of-state relatives! I’m happy for her and them. Baby’s first Christmas is a big deal. She’ll be gone for almost two weeks and is expected back to us on January 2. 

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$14 worth of new clothes from Target.

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Ali tells me everyday that she loves Bee. The jealousy and regression only lasted a few days and now she loves her to pieces. It’s the kind of sibling love I always hoped for for Alianna.

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Transitioning Bee into our Household

11/30/2013

Thanksgiving marked our first full week with Ms. Bee. I would have liked to write an update sooner but my hands have been pretty full. A year ago when we were thinking about reopening our home as foster parents, I didn’t think I wanted to parent another baby. I was hoping for a child older than Alianna. God heard my heart and we got 2.5 year old Buzz Lightyear. It was hard; really hard. The closeness of his and Ali’s age; the fact that he was grieving and angry and missing his mom; the fact that they were both close to 2 years old; it was our first experience parenting two children…it was a very challenging season that ended up being very rewarding. We’re thankful we were able to support he and his mom during that time. By the end of it, I was starting to think about babies again. I take back what I said…I want a baby again. My fellow Facebook and Instagram foster mamas understand this as “foster baby fever.”

Again, God heard my heart and we got Bee. Jason and I are both really, really enjoying having a baby around again. I actually said to him the other day, “Maybe we should only foster babies. They’re so much easier.” This time around is much more relaxed: we’ve done baby before, we’ve done parenting two kids before, we’ve done the foster care system before. It’s taken a few days to figure out how much Bee needs to sleep each day and how much formula she drinks and how often. We’re gently nudging her towards a schedule we prefer. She sleeps well: 10-11 hours most nights and takes 3-4 naps a day. It’s kind of amazing how much more laid back we are as parents this time around. Oh, and babies are so easy to love and attach to! Jason and I are already smitten with little Bee. We’re pretty sure her stay with us will be short term but that doesn’t stop us from falling completely in love with her.

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Alianna’s transition into big sisterhood has been the biggest learning curve. We’ve seen jealously and regression. We weren’t able to prepare her much for this experience. I’ve told her many times that Buzz’s bedroom would soon belong to another child and we’d have someone else come and live with us for a while. I only had an hour warning about Bee specifically and I knew that even with that, it wasn’t a guarantee that she was coming until her case worker called back to say, “We’re leaving the office now.” That gave me about 15 minutes switch from, “There may be a baby girl coming here tonight,” to “Ali, there is a baby sister coming here tonight. She’s going to stay with us for a while just like Buzz did.” The second day I heard Ali tell Bee to go away a couple times. She asked me if Bee was going home to her mommy. We’ve explained many times that Buzz is home with his mommy so I’m not sure if Ali was hoping Bee’s going home with her mommy (now) or if she’s asking the bigger question that we’re all asking, is she going to leave?

I believe the jealousy and regression have a lot to do with the sudden influx of baby toys, products and contraptions. Within a day or two we had a bouncy seat, Bumbo, swing, Johnny Jump Up and some kind of activity center jumping unit. In addition to that, we have bottles, bibs, burp cloths, blankets, rattles, teethers, toys and crinkle books. I can’t blame Ali at all for being jealous and for wanting to try out everything and be a baby, too. A mom of three confirmed my hunch that we should both indulge and discourage her behavior. Allow her to check things out and pretend to be a baby but keep reminding her that she doesn’t need those things anymore because she’s a big girl now. She’s been pretty good about helping me, especially getting a new diaper and wipe and taking the dirties to the trash can. She loves Bee and most of the time wants to be near her, gives her kisses, asks were she is and what she is saying. I can confidently say that after a week things are feeling pretty normal.

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Introducing… Bee!

11/25/2013

On Thursday afternoon we got a call—only our third call in 3.5 weeks of being open to new placements—and it was a “yes” call. A 6-month old girl? A baby? Yes! God has been preparing my heart since August for our next placement to be a baby girl…ever since I found out Alianna’s biological mom was pregnant with a girl. Bee is not Ali’s biological sister, however, I know that God was preparing me for Bee as well as putting that baby sister on my heart so I’d pray for her a lot. In fact, when I found out baby sister was coming into state custody, I bought some formula, diapers and a newborn onesie from the clearance rack at Target just in case. They put baby sister with another family member so we never got that call. However, funny how God works isn’t it? That onesie I bought just in case…I found an exact duplicate in the tub of clothing that came with Bee!

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I love when God gives me these little signs to show that He knows me and He cares what matters to my heart.

So, back to baby Bee. That’s not her real name, of course. It’s my online nickname for her. We don’t really know how long she’ll be with us at this point. There is a family member out-of-state that they’re hoping will work for her placement but state-to-state transfers and documentation can be slow. Initially we were told it might take 6 months. By the next day, we heard they’re going to try to expedite it, but they still couldn’t give me a time frame. Just “faster.” One day at a time. It would be nice to know if she’ll be with us for Christmas so I can prepare but such is the way of foster care.

Bee is a big baby! That’s part of the reason for the nickname…she’s round and bumbly. I though Ali was a big baby but Bee is already too big for all the 6 month clothes she came with. I have some 9 and 12 month hand-me-downs from Ali that suit her much better. We’ve been blessed with another very easy-going, happy, good-sleeping baby. Praise the Lord! She is really delightful and we’re all so happy to have her join our household for however long we get to kiss her big, soft cheeks and inhale her delicious baby smell. I’ll write more about how we’re all transitioning when I have more time.

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