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The funny thing about love.

June 27th, 2014

I’m trying to be careful about how much I post online, first because the children deserve their privacy and secondly because our foster children are part of a very high profile case (think front-page-newspaper-articles-in-their-hometown).  But I will say this: we are still doing so well.  I had to go to court yesterday and on the long drive there, I thought about what I wanted to tell the judge if she asked about how the girls are doing.  I decided the easiest way to sum it up is that they have moved from initially surviving to absolutely thriving.

Here are some things I have learned lately, in no particular order:

1. Connecting with one of our foster children is going to cost me more effort, time and energy than I expected.  She is very loyal to her birth mother (as she should be).  I can sense that she desperately wants to love me but she has a sense of “cheating on her mom” if she does let down her guard with me.  (However, it is worth noting that she is very attached to Paul, which has surprised us all.)  The other night, as I was tucking the children into bed, I felt like I needed to let her know that is is okay to love me, if she wants to do so.  I said that it was okay to love me and that loving me doesn’t mean she’s cheating on her birth mom.  I explained that the funny thing about love is that it multiplies, not divides.  As I left their bedroom, I felt like I had maybe said too much or made her feel uncomfortable.  You can imagine my relief when I woke up the next morning to find her standing beside my bed.  Before I could ask her what was wrong, she simply said “Good morning.  I love you.”  Since then, she has been by my side constantly, even begging to go to work with me instead of attending her much-loved summer day camp.  She even said something mean to me yesterday, in what I believe was a calculated risk to see how I would respond.  I see all of this as good signs.

2. Last week, I got to take both of the girls with me on a week long work trip.  Over the course of the week they got to make pottery from clay, go horseback riding, swim, etc.  This is all on top of the week we spent at the beach in late May.  These girls are having the best summer of their short lives!  We plan on keeping the rest of the summer very low key for them so that they get to experience the finer things of life like popsicles on the front porch, sprinklers made from water hoses and, of course, catching lightening bugs.

3. The other day, we met up with my grandparents so we could celebrate Father’s Day with my grandfather.  I may be biased, but I think I have some of the best grandparents in the world including a step-grandmother who has never let the word “step” mean anything to her.  One aspect of infertility that has bothered me is that I really want my family to know my children and I’m afraid that I will lose grandparents before we ever have biological (or adopted) children.  As soon as we walked into the restaurant to meet up with them, my foster children were crawling all over them.  As I watched them hand out “foster grandfather” cards they had helped make, I almost started crying.  I may not have these children in my life forever and I certainly won’t have my grandparents in my life forever, but at least I have had the smallest taste of what it feels like to bring a child home to your family.

4. I like advocating for children who need advocates.  I enjoy working with our case workers, attorney’s, etc. to help find what is best for these children.  Sometimes I think about putting my masters degree to work and getting a job advocating for children but, for what it is worth, I also commonly think about going back to school to become a teacher, nurse and princess.

5. The girls’ bedroom is finally finished.  I need to take some pictures and show it to you.  They love their bedroom and make the biggest deal out of the seemingly smallest things.  The other day, a lamp I had ordered finally arrived and you would have thought it was Christmas morning in our home.  Baby dolls are a big thing in our household right now and we have all of the proper baby doll accessories: a crib (my toy from childhood), a high chair, even a bath tub that is the perfect size for a baby doll and her rubber ducky.  We were missing one thing though and, unbeknownst to us, Paul’s mom happened to ship it over the ocean to us:

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That, my friends, is an authentic British baby doll pram.  And yes, I occasionally let my foster children play with it when I’m done pushing it around the house.

Risky love.

June 4th, 2014

Oh, we are so happy.

So much love and joy is filling our home these days.  The other day, after dinner and homework and bathing little girls before bedtime stories and tucking in covers, I looked at Paul and said “Can you even remember our life before these girls?”  Our lives used to be full of work and quiet dinners together and Netflix and that, in itself, was wonderful.  We were happy just being a family of two, grateful for the gift of each other.

But now our lives are full of pink laundry and My Little Pony coloring books and chicken nuggets.  Our lives are full of “Amy Beff, I missed you so bad today at preschool that I cried for you!” and “Paul, will you take me to daddy / daughter night at school?”  I have (somewhat) learned how to style little girl hair and Paul has mastered a hair dryer after bath time.  We are so happy, even on the hard days (and there are always hard days when you are fostering; I just don’t write a lot about them for privacy reasons).

For Easter, we did something absolutely magical.  We left town as soon as school let out that Thursday and headed to a hotel in Pigeon Forge.  I wish you could have been a little bird perched on our car while we tried to explain the definition of vacation to these sweet girls.  It was almost more than they could comprehend and they asked endless questions about it.  We stayed at a hotel and the girls experienced all kinds of firsts: hotel rooms, water slides, breakfast in the lobby.  The next morning, we took them to Dollywood where they proceeded to lose their minds with excitement over every little thing.  Incidentally, their favorite ride was the only open water ride which, also incidentally, had no one in line for it (probably because they had better sense than we did).  This meant that, after we finished the ride, we just stayed buckled in for another round… and another round… and another round.

That night, we took the girls to eat at a Mexican restaurant (“So, they’ll just keep bringing us these chips, right?”) and then went swimming in the indoor hotel pool.  The next morning, we went to Dollywood again and repeated the previous day’s water adventures much to Paul’s dismay.  That night, we ordered pizza (“Wait, they will bring pizza to our hotel room?!?”) followed by more swimming in the indoor pool.  Late that night, we wrote notes to the Easter Bunny explaining that we weren’t at home and would he please bring our baskets to our hotel room instead?  And wouldn’t you know it, that bunny managed to find us in that room while we were sleeping and left two huge pink tulle covered baskets in our hotel room.  Paul and I woke to squeals of joy as two little girls ran to their baskets.  Our little one excitedly told us that she “saw” the Easter Bunny drop the baskets off in the night and reported that he had “very big, friendly eyes” and “ears that flopped over his head.”

Later that day, we took the girls to a stream in the mountains where we met up with my dad and stepmother for a picnic.  While my dad grilled lunch for us, my brother carried my girls into the stream so they could put their feet in, even though it was freezing cold.  That evening, we stopped by my mother’s house so we could celebrate Easter with her and that side of my family.  On the way home that night, I realized that we had never taken photos that day of our foster daughters in their Easter dresses.  We pulled off an interstate exit, put the girls in a little field and took some of the prettiest cell phone pictures you ever did see.

I could tell you a hundred other stories like these.  We have attended pre-school graduation, celebrated our third grade student of the month, made end-of-the-year gifts for teachers, played in sprinklers, taken the girls to the beach, learned how to properly brush little baby teeth, attended court hearings, sat by hospital beds, read storybooks at night, everything.  I find myself somewhere in the middle of looking forward to bedtime so I can have some “me” time (to do laundry and wash dishes, naturally) to finding myself truly missing the girls 15 minutes after I tuck them in at night.  Most of all, I find myself in a state of gratefulness.  Foster care isn’t supposed to be about us; it is supposed to be about the children.  We are doing this because we want to provide a loving, safe home to children who need it.  The fact that we are being blessed by them is just icing on the cake.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: fear is just the hardest part of this.  One morning this week, as I was driving the girls to school, I started thinking about the inevitable question of when they will leave us.  I found myself instantly playing negotiator with God in my head: can she stay until she starts kindergarten so I can make sure she has a picture of herself on her first day of school?  Or at least until October so we can take them on that dream vacation we are cautiously planning for them?  Christmas, oh Christmas — is it possible that we could have them in our house on Christmas morning, please?

That’s the rub of foster care — you can’t imagine the future without the children you have come to love but, at the same time, you can’t imagine the future with those children because they are not guaranteed to be in your future.  And so you continue driving them to summer day camp and fixing dinner and giving baths at bedtime always secretly wondering how many more days of day camp you get, how many more taco nights you’ll have together, how long pink hooded towels will hang in your bathroom.

There have been times I have caught myself withholding part of my love from the girls, trying to emotionally cushion myself for the chance of them leaving.  I am trying to break that habit and to love them selflessly, even if I know I may hurt more in the long run.  I am the adult; I can handle the emotional pain.  They, however, are the children and they need every ounce of love I can give to fill a million little gaps that have been empty for far too long.

“The risk of love is loss,

and the price of loss is grief –

but the pain of grief is only a shadow

when compared with the pain of never risking love.”

Hilary Stanton Zunin

May the odds, and department store bathrooms, be ever in your favor.

April 17th, 2014

Becoming a foster parent overnight means you have to do a lot of basic things very quickly.  We are nearing the one month mark with the girls and I believe I have set a new personal record in school documents completed and doctor offices visited.  Let me give you a run-down of a recent day:

1. Get the girls up and ready to leave the house early.

2. Go to dentist for one of the girls.

3. Get a flat tire as I pull into the dentist office.

4. Stand in the rain with man from AAA as he tries to put my spare tire on.

5. Take oldest child to her school.

6. Take youngest child to her new pre-school.

7. Fill out registration paperwork for new pre-school.

8. Go to kindergarten round-up and fill out the exact (I mean, literally the same forms) paperwork I had just filled out at the pre-school.

9. Work eight hours.

10. Fix dinner.

11. Meet with case worker for two hours.

12. Give baths.

13. Curl up in bed with 200+ pages of medical documents on one child and begin reading through them so I can understand the medical history.

(And do you know what?  I LOVE IT.  I am so fulfilled by the basic things: getting them dental care, getting them registered for school, making sure they take their daily multi-vitamin.  I love every bit of it, even the days when it seems impossible to accomplish everything that needs to be done in that one day.  To be able to provide basic care for children who desperately need it motivates me in a way I can’t describe.  I love doing their laundry because it means they have clean clothes.  I love fixing them meals because it means they are going to gain needed weight.  I love wrangling dentist and doctor appointments because it means less daily physical pain for them.)

After my marathon day, I knew I needed to get my flat tire fixed.  So, I headed to Chattanooga to the one auto place that had a matching tire in stock.  They told me they were behind schedule and that I could choose to walk around the mall for a few hours if I wanted.  I took them up on it and, as I walked into the mall, I began giggling like a schoolgirl.  Outside of work, it was one of the first times that I’ve been on my own without the girls since they came to live with us and I couldn’t figure out what to do first.  Get a pedicure?  Have a half hour massage?  Window shop for clothes?  It didn’t matter what I did because I WAS FREE.  AND MY CAR COULDN’T BE DRIVEN.  SO I WAS FORCED TO STAY IN THE MALL.  WHILE PAUL HAD THE GIRLS ON HIS OWN.

Before I could do anything, I needed to use the bathroom so I popped into a department store and headed for their women’s restroom.  As I walked in, I noticed I was the only person there but didn’t pay much attention to it.  I heard someone come in after me but never turned to look at them as I walked into a stall.  A few minutes later, when I walked out of the stall, I came face to face with a teenage male employee cleaning the bathroom sinks.  I yelped and he said “Oh, no worries — I’m just here to clean.”

Gentle readers.  GENTLE READERS.  What would you have done?

I just stared at him literally in shock and then finally whispered “But I was in here?  The whole time?  You were in here?  The whole time?”

He shrugged and went back to cleaning the sinks like it was no big deal.  Meanwhile, I was just in shock.  I washed my hands in record time and left the restroom.  Right outside the restroom was a group of three store employees just standing around chatting.  One of them asked if they could help me find something and, still in shock, I said “You know, the craziest thing just happened.  I just went to use the restroom and one of your male employees came in behind me and began cleaning while I was using the restroom.”  They just looked at me and one finally said “Well, ma’am, you could have used the other women’s restroom on the ground floor of the store” as if I had purposely gone in the restroom when a “closed for cleaning” sign was posted.

(I feel like this is the most boring story ever.)

(I apologize.)

Anyway, I left the store with my left eye twitching, a phenomenon that began the night the girls arrived in our home and seems to be most prevalent when sitting at the Health Department trying to get a birth certificate copy or, you know, when a teenage boy cleans a restroom while I’m using it.  I decided to go grab some face wash because it turns out that, along with left eye twitching, instantaneous foster parenthood also brings acne along for the ride.  I spent the rest of my free time walking around stores looking for items the Easter Bunny might like to leave in a couple of baskets this weekend and was unable to find anything that did not contain a peace symbol or unicorn emblazoned on it so I left empty handed promising myself I would never forsake Target again.

I finally gave up and took my eye twitch and face wash back to the auto repair waiting room where I joined a man who had been waiting over five hours to have his flat tire fixed.  I know desperation when I see it so I settled myself in a nice plastic chair and placed a crisp dollar bill in the vending machine so I could have a delectable dinner while staring at the two repairmen trying to work on nine cars.  As fate would have it, my car got fixed first which caused me to offer a heartfelt “May the odds be ever in your favor” to the man in the waiting room as I left.

For the record, he did not seem amused.

Pinkie Pie and other magical moments.

April 9th, 2014

We are surviving but not just that — we are thriving!

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of many medical appointments, loads of pink laundry and paperwork.  We have selected a pre-school and completed enrollment for Miss Five Year old; enrolled Miss Nine Year old in an elementary school; found after-school programs since Paul and I work all day; participated in long conference calls with DCS; supplemented our initial wardrobe purchased for the girls and even managed to teach two little girls all the words to Let it Go from Frozen.

Paul and I have worked hard the last couple of weeks.  From the time we wake up until the time we collapse in bed, we are constantly doing something.  I imagine this is what “real” parenting is like, except maybe our version has a lot more case workers dropping by in the evenings, paperwork that has to be documented daily and therapeutic / medical care around the clock to two sweet girls.  I had no idea what Paul would be like as a parent but he has exceeded my wildest expectations.  It turns out that there’s nothing more attractive than a man who can blow dry a five year old’s hair whilst simultaneously teaching the nine year old the order of the planets (Pluto, we hardly knew ye).

In the middle of all of this, we had a little medical emergency for one of our darlings that required immediate unplanned surgery under anesthesia.  Somehow we ended up in the hands of the best surgeon around and a team of nurses that made me want to ask them if we could become friends and go out for lunch dates together.  You will be happy to know that I restrained from offering  to meet them at Chili’s and instead chose to have a local bakery deliver a basket of goodies to them the day after we went home to thank them for the way they took care of us.

Here are some highlights so far:

1. Miss Five Year Old regularly walks around the house talking about the ponies from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by name.  I cannot get enough of hearing her little voice talking about Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy.  She has picked up on my joy and will often walk up to me and whisper “Pinkie Pie” just to hear me squeal with joy.

2. Miss Nine Year Old is getting to be just that: a nine year old girl.  I love helping her find the freedom to leave all the other roles she’s had to carry and just be a nine year old.  Every child deserves the right to their childhood.

3. We have had the pleasure of introducing the girls to the following things: Walmart, Target, the Tooth Fairy, go-karts, my family, Paul’s mom (via phone), roller coasters, lasagna, etc.  Future things I would like to introduce them to include: Dollywood (don’t judge), the mall, Build-A-Bear, the Ocoee river, waterslides, hotel rooms and baby chicks at Easter.

4. I went to check my Post Office box and there were cards and gifts from people who I’ve never met, friends from high school I haven’t seen in 10 years, etc.  We receive a daily stipend that goes towards the girls’ needs so I would never, ever expect people to give us anything.  As appreciated as the gifts were, it was the cards that mattered more.  To have people celebrate our somewhat instantaneous parenthood with us made my heart so full.

5. Life feels significant.  If there is one thing I’ve discovered during my twenties, it is that I was created with a need to feel like I spend my days in a significant way.  I am most fulfilled when I am using my time, energy, money, etc. for a greater good than binge watching Netflix.  Caring for these girls feels infinitely significant and it makes me feel like I’m doing something significant every single day.

The low point:

1. Already feeling anxious knowing that they may (will?) leave us one day.  The goal of foster care is always reunification with the birth family.  Sometimes that doesn’t happen but it is always everyone’s first goal.  It is a delicate balance to care for these children as if they were your own whilst knowing that they are very much not your own.  It is hard for me to love someone and then have to let them go (please see: fabulous five, former foster children, previous boyfriends, etc.).

As you can see, the pros are definitely outweighing the cons at this point.  You certainly wouldn’t waste a prayer on us but you also wouldn’t waste a smile, too, after knowing how long I’ve waited to have children to love again.

The lucky ones.

March 25th, 2014

Well, it’s a girl!  And… another girl!  Paul and I are now the proud foster parents of a nine year old girl and her five year old sister.

Last Friday, I left work early to pick Aviean up from school.  As we were talking about what to do that night, she mentioned that a classmate was having a birthday party and she wanted to go.  We headed to Target to find a gift, grabbed Uncle Paul and then the three of us headed to the birthday party.  While Paul and I were watching Aviean play with her classmates, we got the call we had been waiting for: we were the match to a foster child.  And… would we take her sister, too?

We had previously told the agency we were only willing to take one child but that we didn’t care if it was a boy or girl.  When they called about this situation, Paul and I talked about it and very quickly decided that we would take both children even though we had previously been pretty adamant about taking just one child.  Truthfully, we have plenty of room for both children (Paul and I are using the spare bedroom and use the master bedroom for the children).  And so, very quickly, we were the match.

While Aviean played at the birthday party, Paul and I just kept looking at each other kind of stunned.  After the party ended, we told Aviean the news and she was ecstatic (while we didn’t care what gender of a child we received, Aviean has been praying for a girl since day one).  We came home and got Aviean ready for bed while relaying calls with DCS about the children’s arrival.

They came to us late that night directly from a hospital emergency room.  We immediately got them inside, talked a little bit and then helped them get to sleep (the little one didn’t fall asleep until nearly 2 a.m.).  On Saturday morning, Aviean began giving the girls the grand tour of our home which included helpful hints about where we keep the puppy’s toys and the best place to find a snack.  Everyone had biscuits and gravy (except me — I don’t remember eating much that day at all) and then we loaded up and headed to Target.

Unfortunately, the girls didn’t come with belongings so we had to start from scratch.  I’m sure people walking past us thought we were crazy as we wheeled two little girls around in their pajamas while trying to figure out what size jeans and shoes they wear.  Nearly three hours later, we had gathered up enough underwear, clothes, shoes and toiletries to make it through the next week.  I think the real highlight was introducing the girls to Target’s snack bar (they had never been to Target and weren’t really sure what Walmart was).  The low point definitely happened in the shoe section when I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to find shoes to fit their tiny feet.

Saturday was a very expensive day between the Target run and other things we needed to immediately purchase for the girls.  Late in the afternoon, we finally stopped for some Happy Meals at McDonald’s.  As we waited in line, I asked Paul whether he wanted a hamburger or salad.  My sweet husband, who has never had alcohol due to his epilepsy, immediately answered “I’ll take a double scotch, please.”

The rest of the weekend was a blur.  The immediate needs were to get the girls rehydrated, fed, etc.  At one point I could hardly get water bottles out of the fridge fast enough for them and decided to start feeding them water based fruit as well to try to get liquids into them.  I was in pediatric nurse mode for a lot of the weekend but on Sunday we managed to make it to church on time.  After getting the girls settled into their classes, Paul and I started heading to the sanctuary.  When we got to the doors, I looked at Paul and said “Maybe you and I should just sit here in the lobby and make a game plan for the rest of the day.”  We spent the next hour sitting in the church foyer trying to figure out what the most pressing needs were for the girls and deciding who would tackle what when we got home.  I’m sure the church service was great that morning but the relief of knowing we had a game plan was pretty wonderful.

We haven’t stopped running since then.  I can’t take off work this week due to some big events so I’ve been squeezing doctor and dental appointments in on lunch breaks and evening walk-in clinics.  I am trying to wash clothes and bed sheets each day and just doing basic things to keep the girls going and adjusting to being with us.

They are precious.  I can’t say much more than that but they are fabulous five (fabulous seven?) level of preciousness.  The oldest is so sweet and the youngest has enough personality for about five other children.  From the time they wake up in the morning until they moment they finally pass out from exhaustion at night, they are constantly on my or Paul’s heels.  They follow us from room to room and, no matter what mundane task we’re doing, they want to be standing right next to us.

Paul and I are beside ourselves with both joy and exhaustion.  I am hopeful that, once I get done with this really busy week at work and I have all of the medical appointments done for the girls, we will be able to rest a bit more.  I still have to get Miss Nine Year Old registered for school (our public schools are on spring break this week) and Miss Five Year Old into a preschool and I know that both of those tasks aren’t easy.

But we are so happy.  So, so happy.  We think we are the luckiest, happiest home in Tennessee tonight, with two angels asleep in the other room.  People keep wanting to tell us that the girls are so lucky to have us but Paul and I know the truth.  We really are the lucky ones.

Pottery Barn & lice.

March 13th, 2014

A list, if you will:

1. Healthier lifestyle is going great.  I’m seeing results when I weigh myself each week but, more importantly, I’m seeing results in my mind.  When I want to eat something that is not healthy for me, I don’t just not eat it — I stop and ask myself why I want it.  Am I bored?  Am I upset?  Am I stressed?  Am I being lazy?  By identifying what is going on in my head, I feel like I can have better long term success with trying to be healthier.  It will be a long road that will hopefully be made even longer by pregnancy somewhere down the road.  In my ideal world, I would lose a certain amount of weight, get pregnant, stop losing weight, have a child and then lose more weight.  Then again, my ideal world also includes Beth Moore fixing my hair each morning, so I guess we’ll just see how life pans out.

2. Yesterday, while we were eating lunch together, Paul and I got a call that our home is officially open for foster care.  I feel like a pregnant woman waiting for her water to break except I don’t know if I’m “giving birth” to a toddler or adolescent.  When the call does come, we’re ready.  The bedroom is clean — floors scrubbed, toys polished, clean sheets on the bed.  I know the quickest route to the car seat section in Target, if we were to need one.  Short of buying an outfit in every size and gender, I don’t know what else we could do to be more prepared for an unknown child.

3. One of the strange things about foster care is not knowing what age of child you will be committing to take care of indefinitely.  I know we are not going to take a teenager this time around because I just feel like I’m too close in age to a teen (the last time I fostered, I was barely 10 years older than my oldest foster child!).  So, will we get a baby?  A kindergartner?  A third grader?  Will they be adoptable or is reunification with birth parents the goal?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Do they have medical needs?  Will English be their primary language?  This has been your complimentary peek into my mind over the last 24 hours.

4. I have a theory.  My theory is that our licensing process was being perfectly timed (by God) to match up with the timing of the “right” child coming into custody.  A whole lot of intricate details have to happen at simultaneous times for my theory to be correct but I’m still going to stick with it.  I may be curious about the child we’re going to get but I can’t help but to believe that this is being micromanaged by God since I can’t micromanage it myself.  As hard as my last foray into foster care was, I still believe that I was meant to foster those three children at that specific time in their life (and, incidentally, I would still do it all over again even knowing what the outcome would be).

5. One of my biggest fears about telling people that we are going to foster is that people would think we’re doing it just to “fill a need” for a child in our life since we don’t have a biological child of our own yet.  I can easily see how people would come to that conclusion (if I was on the outside looking in, I would totally make that assumption).  Here is what I have found, though: choosing to foster while going through infertility is not an “answer” or even necessarily a “relief.”  Basically, what we are signing up for is taking in someone else’s child, falling in love with them and potentially sending them back out of our lives forever just when we get good and attached to them.  What I wanted to sign up for was this: my mother, stepmother and three grandmothers crowded into a doctor office, all trying to see the ultrasound screen followed by a nice leisurely lunch at The Cheesecake Factory before we all head over to Pottery Barn Kids to pick out crib bedding.  Instead, I may get lice.  So, no, this is not something we’re doing because we want a baby.

6. A video about foster care just came out that has captivated me.  It hits so many intricate details of foster care that are hard to put into words.  If you have a few minutes, I’d love for you to watch it.  If you’ve never fostered, this is probably the most accurate description of fostering I’ve encountered so far.

 )

Hard work.

March 4th, 2014

Over the last decade, I have done a lot of hard work.

Some of it was in a small dorm room where I came up with the idea of Starlite, a ministry that would go on to be a huge part of my life.

Some of it is was in college classrooms, where I earned degrees while working part-time jobs to pay my way through school.

Some of it was in counseling centers, where I tried to understand events that happened in my past.

Some of it was in my bathroom, when I would almost fall asleep while giving the Fabulous Five their nightly baths.

Some of it was in courtrooms, where I fought to represent foster children who lived in my home.

Some of it was in forms — over 200 pages of forms, to be exact — where I petitioned the US government to allow the man I loved to move to America to marry me.

I can do hard work.  I know I can.

But there’s one piece of hard work that I’ve been avoiding for the better part of a decade that I don’t want to ignore any longer.

This is me a little over 10 years ago, right before I left for college.

HighSchool

This is me today, some 11 years later.

Wedding

I gained weight.  A lot of weight.  Enough weight to put me in a category that is dangerous to my health.

I gained the first part of it very quickly, which signaled something was wrong.  I went to a doctor, found out what it was and started trying to address it.

I didn’t see results.  I got embarrassed.  I got frustrated.  I got lazy.  And I gained more weight.

Today, I still have that same health issue and am treating it with the help of a wonderful fertility specialist who is both honest and kind.  We have talked about the fact that I need to be healthier and that a very visible sign of becoming healthy will be losing weight.

Regardless of whether I ever have a biological child, I know I want to be a mother.  And in a way, I will be one soon — we expect to have a foster child sleeping under our roof before the month is up.  Even if I never get to see an ultrasound in a doctor’s office, I am going to, in a way, get to be a mother.

But I want to be a great mom and wife.  I want to be able to play on the playground without panting.  I want to be able to get up before the sun rises and have a healthy, filling breakfast on the table for my family.  I want to play in the ocean with my children.  I want to take care of my grandparents and parents as they get older in life and need my assistance.  I want to live to see Paul’s hair turn gray.

And if I don’t make changes now, I’m afraid I will never get to do those things.

I have put it off because it is going to be hard.  I am addicted to food, specifically food that is not healthy.  I am also lazy when it comes to exercise, partly because exercise is difficult at my weight and partly because I’ve just never been into exercise even when I was at a healthy weight.  It is also related to emotions that go with past situations and present situations in my life.

I also lack self-control in this area of my life.  For the last few years, I have basically eaten whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  This would be great if I was eating apples and grilled chicken but I err more on the McDonald’s side of life.

I’m ready to change.  And, even if I’m not ready to change, I have to be ready to change.  I turn 30 years old in six months and I do not want to enter the next decade of my life at this weight nor with any area of my life that is out of control (and this area is out of control).

I know what to do to lose the weight.  I have a plan, one that isn’t filled with pills and fad diets and starvation.

Now it is just time to do hard work.

Wasteful love.

January 31st, 2014

We are officially over halfway done with foster care training.  We’ve hit the part where I’m checking batteries in smoke detectors, double locking medicines and posting fire escape plans in preparation of our upcoming home visit studies.  Paul is excited.

I am sometimes excited, sometimes scared.

Before the fabulous five came into my life, I knew I would never adopt a child.  I never said it out loud, because it seemed politically incorrect, but I just didn’t think I was capable of loving a non-biological child in the same way I would love a biological child that shared my bloodline.  I just didn’t think I could do it.

But then MacKenzie came.  And Aviean.  And Angelina, Juliana and Olivia.  And suddenly, I learned a truth about myself: I could (and did) love each of those children as if I had given birth to them myself.  It was the most amazing, shocking lesson of my life.  Here was this thing I thought I was incapable of — and now it seemed like the easiest thing in the world.  I fell in love with them without trying; it was truly that easy.

When I started fostering, I thought it wouldn’t happen again.  This will be different, I told myself.  It will be harder this time, I thought.  And it was harder, but the result was the same: I did love those children as if they were mine.  I remember the day I got the call that Miss Seventeen’s biological parents’ rights had been terminated.  One of the very first thoughts that went through my head was “I need to open a bank account and start saving for her wedding one day.”

So why am I so scared that this time will be different?  Why am I afraid that this child, number nine to sleep under my roof, will be the one that I find myself unable to bond with?

I think it is because, in a way, I feel like fostering is saying that I’m giving up on having a biological child.  And I am not ready to give up.

I’m just not.  Even though I know that I can love a non-biological child in the same way I can love a biological child, I still want to have a biological child.  I want to be pregnant.  I want to have morning sickness.  I want to see a heartbeat on an ultrasound.  I want to go into labor.  I want my family to hurry to the hospital.  I want my mother to show me how to give a baby a bath.  I want my father to triple check that the car seat is installed correctly.  I want to see if the baby has Paul’s hair color.  I want a child that I get to name.

When I was younger, I would worry about never getting married.  But I have never worried about never being a mother because I have just always known that, somehow, I would be a mother one day.  My doctor says there is no reason to give up hope yet.  We think we know the problems and maybe how to fix them.

And so I keep saving money for another round of injections and procedures.

And try not to be envious of people who can try for a child each month without needing thousands of dollars for one solitary shot at a child.

And attempt to keep from berating myself for being overweight (that isn’t the only problem in our infertility roster, but it is the only problem that is my personal fault, which makes me feel guilty).

And, above all, I keep reminding myself that it is okay to love a child again.  It is okay if this child returns to their biological parents.  It is okay if I cry when it happens.  It is okay if I still mourn for the children who used to stay with me.  It is okay to still dream of having a biological child while taking care of someone else’s child while they are unable or unwilling to do it themselves.  It is okay to pour out my love on a child, even if it ends up looking like that love went to waste.

Because love can never be wasted on a child.  Never.

“It’s easy to love cautiously.

It’s easy to show expressions of love that are safe and kept within restrained boundaries.

But loving wastefully always involves risk — there’s the risk that the loving deed might, in fact, be wasted.

Yet is it not in loving wastefully that we display the inexhaustible love of God?”

- Spotting the Sacred

 

Hello from the Tennessee snow bunnies!

January 29th, 2014

We went to work yesterday morning hearing that there was a 30% chance of snow…

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… and came home at lunch unable to pull up our driveway!

Six steps towards becoming a foster parent.

January 15th, 2014

Well, as Sally Field would say, you love me — you really love me!  Thank you for your sweet comments and for being able to read through the lines when it comes to what I can and can’t say about foster care specifics.

Here’s a list of what we’ve been up to ever since we made the official decision to foster again:

1. I began nesting.  This meant that, one cold day in January, I made Paul help me pull everything out of our kitchen cabinets (and I do mean everything) so we could clean the insides and outsides of the cabinets before putting food and dishes back in perfectly organized.  We scoured everything from the oven to the freezer to the dishwasher.  I have washed windows, cleaned out closets and scrubbed baseboards.  I think this intense nesting comes from memories of fostering before.  When I was fostering three children and working (all while single), I always felt better about life if I could at least keep my house fairly clean and organized.  I would come home each day at lunch, while the foster kids were either in school or at day care, and clean like a maniac for 50 minutes before heading back to my office to finish out the day.  I tried so hard to clean while they weren’t home so that, when they were home, I could focus my attention on them.

I want to go back into foster care with my house deep cleaned and organized again so that I won’t feel overwhelmed when I try to juggle everything.  I’ve got almost the whole house organized and I’m continuing to deep clean various things.  I think Paul was on board with my nesting until the day I started organizing my plastic silverware into quart sized labeled bags.

2. I began dreaming of decorating.  When the fabulous five came into my life back in the day, one of the very first things I set out to do was to create a bedroom just for them.  I love decorating so it is natural that I like to show my love for a child by creating a space that is appealing to them.  Since we don’t know what age we will be foster yet (more on that in a minute), I have just been day dreaming so far.  And, okay, maybe a few Google searches to see how much a crib would cost.

3. We began making decisions.  One of the very first things we talked about was what age of children we wanted to foster and how many we were willing to take at a time.  The last time around, I had said I would only take one child under the age of four — and somehow ended up with three children ranging in ages three to seventeen!  This time around we know we just want one child at a time and we would like a younger child.  I actually really loved having teenage girls last time but, for this time around, I think we are best suited for a younger child.  I don’t think we have a preference on the sex; if it is a girl, she can play with Aviean’s toys and if it is a boy, Paul can finally have a legitimate reason to shop the Spiderman section at Target.

4. I began doing paperwork.  At our first class, we were given a folder full of forms to fill out to begin the foster care process.  In addition to all of these forms, we had a list of documents we needed to produce ranging from our marriage certificate to our birth certificates to proof of car insurance.  I took that folder on like it was my job and began filling out forms and collecting documents like a champ.  Last night, I handed over 40+ pages of completed paperwork and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that I haven’t felt since the days of 20 page papers due in grad school.

5. We began going to classes.  Paul and I are doing a form of foster care that is called therapeutic foster care.  This is a step up from basic foster care where we will receive children who come from more complex home situations (this is the same type of foster care I did before).  We go two nights a week, for three hours each night, for six weeks.  In the classes, you cover everything from dealing with birth parents to the judicial system to CPR.  I’ve been through the classes before but am going again to renew my certification and the instructor has been so kind and inclusive to me by asking me to share some of my experiences with the other couples who are going through training for the first time.  As the classes wind down, we’ll have several home study visits and will then wait on the state to certify our home.  Once that happens, we will begin receiving calls about children.

6. I got a mom hair cut.  But really — I went and got six inches cut off my hair.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.