Savoring

07/24/2013

IMG_9635

I’m thankful that I get to work at home on Tuesdays and Thursday so I can spend 4/7 days a week with this kid. I love her so much it hurts. (Pics from yesterday.) She is too stinkin cute.

IMG_9634

It was really difficult to leave for work this morning while she was calling out to me, “Mommy! Mommy!” and I had to just ignore her. Breaks. My. Heart. I love my job and somedays I’m thankful to be out of the house but other days I cry on my way to the office… it’s one of those days.

IMG_9637

I might be a little extra emotional due to hormones. Also, we’re savoring our time with this little guy because he might be leaving on Friday. There is a hearing scheduled for 1pm on Friday and as far as we can tell there is a very good chance he will be returning to his mom, which would be a good thing for everyone. But it will also be sad for Jason and I. And especially for him and Ali…they’ve become best friends over the past 12 weeks. Nothing is ever for sure until the judge makes his decision but we’re mentally preparing. We’ll wait until tomorrow evening to try to explain anything to the kids. Last time we thought he was leaving I ended up (surprising myself by) being an emotional wreck the night before. Praying for strength! He was outside with me this morning while Lucy was doing her business and came up to me for a spontaneous hug. He’s grown so much since he arrived at our house on May 3rd… I’ll definitely be writing about all of that soon.


Getting Settled

05/15/2013

I’m way behind on blog posts. I still haven’t posted about Ali’s and my trip to Florida a month ago or the swimming lessons she started. I have pictures of mid-century modern things we’ve bought and sold. I have pictures of our blossoming landscaping. I was behind before Buzz showed up 12 days ago but now I’m REALLY behind. However, it’s easier to write about what’s currently going on.

• Yesterday was Buzz’s first day of day care (in our care) and it was so good for all of us. The consistency of a daily routine, structure and opportunity to play with other kids all day will be great for him. It was also a much needed break for Ali who has been kind of stressed out (acting out for attention, yelling and hitting a lot) and we could tell she was craving down time, as well as some individual attention from Mom and Dad. I worked at home yesterday with just Ali. Holy Cow! I got so much done! I thought working at home with a child was challenging but after struggling all week last week with two, it was a piece of cake. Day care isn’t cheap and it will use up most of the daily board rate that the state gives us for Buzz’s expenses but it’s worth it for us. This is what Ali did after breakfast:

IMG_8950 IMG_8957

• We all picked Buzz up together and went shopping for a new grill. I love when stores have double child seat shopping carts, especially when they’re shaped like a car. This is the first time we’ve taken both of these kids shopping. They were driving each other crazy. (Get it?) Seriously, they pick on each other like brother and sister. Ali is a pesky little sister constantly grabbing his steering wheel or flicking his hair. He whines and tattles and is always pushing her back into her side of the car. Then she smacks him. Then he fake cries. (Anyone have suggestions on how to foster sibling love and kindness?)

IMG_8959 IMG_8962

• Our old grill was a surprise wedding gift from my cousin Dan. I was 18 at the time and I thought, A grill? That’s so…grownup. We’ve used the heck outta that thing over a decade and moved it to 7 different apartments and homes from Erie, PA to Nashville, TN. It was such a wonderful, thoughtful wedding gift. Now here we are 10 years later grilling our first dinner on the back patio of our dream house on a gorgeous May evening with a spunky little Hispanic girl we adopted and a playful little AA boy we’re fostering. I never in a million years would have pictured this as my life from that vantage point but here we are and I love it.

IMG_8965

IMG_8963

• Speaking of love, it’s not all brother-and-sisterly squabbles. They do like each other. After dinner they wanted to swing in the hammock together and then they were working together to fill containers with rocks in the courtyard. And the sweetest thing yet… Jason was putting Ali to bed while I was putting Buzz to bed. He brought Ali into his room so I could give her a hug and kiss goodnight. As they started to walk out, Buzz said “Wait!” We asked if he wanted to say goodnight to Ali. (We’ve suggested this several times before and they usually refuse anything other than an occasional “night night” or wave.) They both leaned in for a hug and then a kiss. MELT.MY.HEART.

• Neighborhood moms are so generously bringing us meals 3 nights a week and it lifts a huge burden. If I haven’t already mentioned it, Buzz will likely be with us a couple months but of course anything can happen in foster care. I love his mom. We’ve been texting back and forth a few times through the week. She was super helpful in getting me his immunization records so I could get him into day care. (DCS…not so much. They pretty much dropped the ball last week and this desperate mama decided to take matters into her own hands…without of course “going over their heads” because, ah hem, we’ve been warned.) We’re constantly referring to ourselves as Mr. Jason and Ms. Martina to Buzz, both out of respect for his parents and because we believe he’ll be reunified with them soon. However, he has started calling me “Ma” and Jason “Da.” I’m not sure how to avoid this because Ali is calling us Mama and Daddy all day. Also, I don’t think he’s able to say “Ms. Martina” or “Mr. Jason.” I just hope his mom is not offended if/when he calls me Ma in front of her someday. I tried. I really did. Ali, on the other hand, sometimes calls me “Nina.” Or “Ali’s Nina.” Oh that girl!

So that’s where we are. Blogging has been a little scarce because I’m still fighting to recover my energy. At the end of the day when I have the choice of sorting out my thoughts here or going to bed, I usually fall asleep sitting up before I even make the decision. But we’re definitely getting settled and life is starting to feel more manageable. Thanks for hanging out here and sharing this adventure with us.


Mothers Day 2013 Reflections

05/12/2013

IMG_8941

Mothers Day continues to be a roller coaster of emotions for me. I am thankful for the many wonderful mothers in my life. My own. Jason’s. My sisters, sisters-in-law and good friends who are journeys simultaneously with me into motherhood. Ali’s first mom who gave her life, loved her, did her best for her, and then gave us her blessing to raise her precious daughter. And now there is Buzz’s mom who is heartbroken and working hard to play by the rules and get her son back. She’s been very easy to get along with and loves her little boy and he loves her too. She sent me a happy mothers day text on my way to church and I sent her one back with a photo of these two beautiful children that I got to spend the day with, mothering. I’m an exhausted, blessed, weepy mess and I’m going to attempt to use this space to sort out my thoughts tonight.

I’m not usually the type who cries reading mothers day cards, but there I was at my parents’ church this morning crying over a Hallmark card before I even got to the handwritten note from my own mom, who is relentlessly loving and encouraging. Mothers Day never used to be an emotional day for me. I wrote about that last year. I always knew in my heart that I’d be a mom and I wasn’t sad while I was childless. I haven’t lost a mom or a child or dealt with other situations that makes women sad on mother’s day. And yet these past two mothers days I’ve been an emotional wreck.

People often tell me that they’ve talked about doing foster care someday. In my head, my response is “but then you decided that you like yourself and your life, so you thought better of it.” I’m joking, but not. Because I like myself too. In a clear-headed, God-focused moment Jason and I decided whole-heartedly to surrender our plans and dreams for what our family might look like and become foster parents. We feel called to it. Most of the time. Other times, I long for my former comfortable, easy, predictable life. I certainly have my fair share of “what the heck are we doing? And why?” moments lately. But I do know why.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I can’t read this passage (Matthew 25:34-40) anymore without sobbing, because I’ve done most of those things and I’ve seen Jesus’ face in the face of one of the least of these. I can’t go back to putting myself first anymore.

Except when I do. Because I’m not perfect. I pour out my mama love until I’m empty. I’m strong until I buckle under the pressure and I crack a little. I need time to heal. To recover. To refill. This week has been hard. So very hard. And good, too. We’ve been giving this thing all that we’ve got and I feel completed poured out. Empty. I see that Buzz has made a tremendous amount of progress in a week. It makes my mama-heart so proud that he’s feeling comfortable and safe here now. Progress is tangible. Hard work is exhausting.

A woman at church yesterday told me that I’m living her dream. Huh? Her dream I think she said was “to adopt a some kids from Africa.” I didn’t feel compelled to tell her that both of these kids where born in Nashville and that one of them is in foster care. I’d love to know what my face looked like when she said that as I was wracking my brain to come up with a response. I hope I smiled politely. I kind of wanted to smack her in the face and say, “Do you have any idea what this week has been like?” But I know she’s seeing a different reality than me. I know because I do that same thing when I see a picture of a family with kids of all different colors and I think: How lovely! How beautiful! I want my family to look like that. She’s seeing the happy young white mom with the dark brown boy with crazy hair, a mischeiveous grin and a puppy dog backpack and the caramel brown little girl with a big pink flower in her curly black hair, with the infectious smile and owl backpack. And if I do say so, they were both super adorable yesterday. But it’s not all flowers and puppies and sweets around here.

There are tantrums and tears. (Sometimes from the kids.) There are butts and noses that always need wiped. There are accidents to clean up. Wanders to chase down. Slow pokes to pull along. Buckles to buckle, shoes to tie, velcro to fix, cups to fill…one thousand million times a day. In one week I’ve become the mom that’s shouting “Share! Play nice! Walk please! Slow down! Come on, let’s go! We don’t hit! Gentle please! Don’t bite people! Leave the dog alone!” way too many times a day. I’ve relied on the TV as a pacifier more than I care to admit. (Sometimes for the kids.)

IMG_8915 IMG_8917

I have to stop and wonder: between me and that woman, which one of us is seeing the real picture? Both of us? Maybe neither? Perhaps we’re each only seeing one small part of the greater picture the Master Artist is creating.


This Time

05/08/2013

I have lots of things in my mind to process and share, it’s just a matter of finding the time this week as we’re all still getting situated. This is our first placement of Foster Care Round 2 and there are some really significant differences this time:

1. We have another child.

I know this is obvious. In a lot of ways, it’s made this transition easier. Our house is already pretty child-proof. We have lots of toys, a playroom, kids shows loaded up on our Netflix, bath toys and shampoos and soaps, high chairs, sippy cups, etc. We’re familiar with toddler behavior and have a lot of well practiced discipline and parenting techniques. We have toddler friendly foods and an understanding of little kid schedule. All of these things were a huge learning curve with our first placement, Ladybug, who was 16 months old. There are also some challenges that come because of having two kids. The fighting…I mean learning to share. Two kids running in opposite directions. Taking turns. Dividing our parental attention between two. Attempting to adapt them both to the same schedule. Double the: bodies to wash and dress, teeth to brush, butts and noses to wipe, shoes to put on, car seats to buckle, sippy cups to fill, backpacks to pack, toys to wrangle, boo boos to kiss. It’s also double the: cuddles, giggles, comforting hugs, smiles from strangers, sighs of relief when they’re both finally asleep, safe and sound at night.

IMG_8874

2. A community of fellow moms.

The first time we became parents we had a few friends who were already parents but not a ton. I wasn’t part of any groups or clubs. This time, holy smokes! It wasn’t just our immediate friends and family offering to help. I sent out an email to our neighborhood MOMS club right after Buzz was asleep on Saturday morning requesting clothes because he hardly came with anything. At 8:30 am the first mom was out my doorstep with a big box of clothes, shoes, underwear, socks, pjs, toys, diapers. (Some of which is pictured below.) Throughout the day, we got 3 more deliveries. I thought we could handle it from there but in a weak, desperate moment yesterday I put out another plea for a few grocery items and some babysitting help. Before I knew what hit me I was sitting at my computer weeping as phone calls, texts and FB messages started pouring in with offers to help. One friend left immediately for the grocery store with my short list of desperate needs. Another mom from the MOMS club called to set up a meal calendar. Another couple of friends offered to bring meals this week. I am blown away but the support from our community! Also humble enough to admit that I need help this time.

IMG_8861

3. Grieving people.

The most significant difference with Buzz’s placement is the emotions. Ladybug didn’t really show signs of grief. She was angry sometimes and I’m sure there was some confusion or frustration but she didn’t really seem sad. We never met her birth mom. The family member we did meet, the one who got custody of her, didn’t seem sad either; just frustrated and angry at the department. Ali was a little baby and as content as any baby I’ve ever met. Her birth mom was not outwardly sad, though I know she was struggling. She was very tough and didn’t let her guard down very much. Buzz has been much more sad and emotional than I expected for a 2.5 year old boy. He cries daily, says “I want my mom!”, pouts…it’s very clear that he’s grieving. When we first met his mom she was also very visibly sad and scared about how everything is going to turn out. That combination has just about wrecked us emotionally, too! The most significant thing God is teaching us right now is compassion. He wants us to know what it feels like to be near to the brokenhearted, the way God is near to the brokenhearted. If you ever feel like You can’t find God or you don’t feel His presence, get around some broken, desperate people. That’s where He is working, moving, healing, loving. That’s where He is. But let me clearly warn you: It’s a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing compassion.

IMG_8881


Approval Letter: Ready or Not, Here We Go!

03/26/2013

Screen shot 2013-03-22 at 3.47.07 PM

This came in the mail on Friday. Jason sent me a picture of the letter while I was at work. Totally non-chalant. He texted to say that Ali liked my chicken salad and “Just got the mail too.” He’s as cool as a cucumber about this whole thing, unless it comes to advocating for a child—then stay out of his way or you’ll get bowled over! But, seriously, how does he stay so chill about it?

My immediate reaction was freak out. I’m not ready!

Then I remembered, wait… yes I am. We’re going to be fine. We can do this. Deep breath.


Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

03/07/2013

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

We really loved our last house but sold it so we’d have room for our family to grow. Specifically, we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to provide a home for children in foster care. At our previous home, I designed a room that could suit one or two kids ages birth to five years old, male or female. It was a big challenge, especially with a small room. This room is targeted toward 2-12 year olds in my mind, though we’re keeping an open mind about ages at this point. It felt much easier this time around, I suppose because we already had the super versatile IKEA KURA bed (which can be flipped over to be a low loft bunk bed) and I’m not set on putting a crib and dresser in here…yet. (We do need to add a dresser ASAP, we found out last week.) Other than the bed and bedding, the woodland creatures curtain was the only other element we started with from the previous house.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I chose the green wall color based on the curtain. Also, green is supposed to be soothing and it’s one of my favorites. I read somewhere that mirrors are good for self esteem for kids. Ali loves looking in the full length mirror in her room so I put one in this room, too. It was less than $10 at Target. See that house reflected in the mirror?

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I found this when we were unpacking. I colored this picture in art class in first or second grade. I pray that our next kids will feel at home in this room and at our home. I added some cuddle buddies to the bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I started adding bits and pieces to this room without any kind of theme in mind; just using what we had available. A friend gave us the headphones pillow as a housewarming gift. We had the other 2 pillows already. The rockstar flashcards are the only 4 letters I completed when I started designing the series 4 years ago. Maybe I’ll finish it one day…

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

This old acoustic guitar that was a gift from my parents for my 16th birthday narrowly escaped the trash during the move. (Jason’s guitars are a million times nicer so he doesn’t see this as fit to play. However, I think some tween or teen might love it!) We also have a collection of random, discount pile Hatch Show Print posters that I thought could help fill the walls here.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

There are a few vintage ReAbide items living in here. This Florence side table works for now as a night stand.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

And this Mack arm chair (below). Before we moved in, I ordered a Nashville road map. I thought it might work as a big poster for this room. It’s colorful and free (as an AAA member) and I thought it might be neat for kids to see where our house is in comparison to where they used to live. The rug is from a local IKEA reseller. I think it’s the only thing besides the full length mirror that we purchased for this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I have a pack and play set up in here. I’m hoping it’ll be enough to convince our case worker that we’re equipped to take a child younger than two. Ali still sleeps in her crib and I don’t have much desire to buy and set up a second crib. If we accept a placement of a younger child, we might consider getting another one at that point…or maybe moving her to a big kid bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com  Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

The book ledges also came from the previous house. These books (with the exception of Pop Warhol’s Top…which I don’t recommend) these books were are all specifically chosen to be in this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

So a really cool thing happened. This room developed a theme without me even realizing it! I suppose it started with the Nashville map, and then the Hatch Show Print posters, and then the guitar. The headphones pillow and the rockstar flashcards followed suit. The theme that developed—which happens to be something that every child who stays in this room, regardless of age or gender will have in common—is Nashville! Music City. Even the woodland curtains and botanical bedding and rug work. We live very close to a huge park so we see squirrels, owls , leaves and lots of trees in our neighborhood.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

It was important to me that I had thoughtful, personal elements worked into the design of this room. I didn’t want it to feel like a guest room. I want it to be a special room because it’s made for a really special kid…a kid we don’t know yet but I want him or her to feel comfortable, loved and wanted from the moment they walk in. I want him or her to know that we’ve been thinking about and praying for him or her before we ever met.

Here’s the floor plan of this room. It’s about 10×12.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

If you’re putting together a room for foster kids in your house, here are some things I recommend:

• Flexible sleeping arrangements
We have this room set up with a twin bed and a pack and play. Without much trouble at all we could flip the twin bed into a bunk bed and replace the pack and play with a real crib. Sometimes foster parents put together a really nice room for 5-12 year old kids and then God has a sense of humor and their first placement is a newborn. Flexibility is key for foster parents.

• Adequate Clothing Storage
This is one of our home checklist requirements from DCS. I’m hoping to add a dresser before too long but for now, we have a big closet ready with hangers and hanging storage for smaller items. We also keep extra blankets, pillows and sheets in the closet.

• Books and Toys
Admittedly, we don’t have toys in here but we do have a playroom right down the hall. It’s mainly because of the wide age range this room is open to that I haven’t put many toys in here. The stuffed animals are probably nice for any age kid, though. These books have been carefully selected to be in this room: Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care, I Don’t Have Your Eyes, I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew, The Little Train That Could, The Velveteen Rabbit, and the Sleep Book.

• Nightlight
Some kids won’t want it on but we have it ready just in case. A new room can be scary and dark. The nightlight is enough to make the whole room visible. We also moved Ali’s constellation turtle light in here because she doesn’t use it anymore. It projects stars on the ceiling for 45 minutes before shutting off automatically. We’re also required to have hallways lit and to have flashlights handy. We got this 3-in-1 night light, emergency light (comes on automatically when the power goes out) and flashlight for our first foster parenting experience. It is in our hallway.

• A Place for Photos
The frame on the nightstand that says “Welcome” is actually a placeholder for a personal photo. Thanks for another foster mom’s suggestion, I also added (after taking photos) a bulletin board with pictures of “Who Lives Here” (me, Jason and Ali with names by our photos) and a photo of our first foster placement with her name and hand print. I will add a photo of each new child under either category.

• Curtains without strings or cords
Another requirement for our home safety checklist—not that we have a curtain but that there are no choking hazards dangling from blinds or curtains.

• Rugs secured to the floor
Yeah, I actually stuck this rug to the floor with rug tape. Another item on our home safety checklist.

• Smoke detector
Our list doesn’t require it to be in the child’s bedroom but there is one in there per codes for a new house build.

• Egress window
Also per codes, in order to be considered a bedroom, a room must have a window that can be opened for escape in case of a fire. Our home safety checklist also requires this.


Nesting

01/28/2013

Apparently I’m nesting. After getting the news that we had a February 28 deadline to reopen our home with DCS, I spent most of my free time during the weekend while Jason was out of town hanging pictures, unpacking those last few stubborn old boxes, sorting, organizing, hanging curtains…

IMG_7857 IMG_7860 IMG_7867 IMG_7869 IMG_7874 IMG_7875

We also got the door lock for the hall closet and our new home phone line set up.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 10.10.06 AM

I think maybe Jason is nesting too, because he’s patching up spots on the wall where we had some nicks and scratches as I’m writing this. We still need to assemble the monster KURA bed, install safety locks, cover the outlets, secure the TV to the wall in the den, rugs need to be “secured” with antislip pads…we also need to get a booster car seat, another twin mattress, night lights…Sheew! Is my list getting longer instead of shorter, or it just me?