Friday, September 2, 2016

Advocate....

I am not sure why this has been on my mind so much lately, but when I can't get something off of my mind, I usually blog about it.  Sometimes, it turns out well....sometimes, it turns out not so well.  This one has the potential to go either way.  Today, I am going to write about what I think it means to be an advocate. 

ad·vo·cate

NOUN


  1. a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy:
    "he was an untiring advocate of economic reform"
    synonyms: champion · upholder · supporter · backer · promoter ·
You will see the definition of advocate listed above.  You will also notice some synonyms listed below such as: champion, upholder, supporter, backer, and promoter. 

As foster parents, we are advocates for these kids.  We support and a lot of times publicly back what we believe in.  But here is where I am noticing some disconnect.  There is no part 2 to this definition that says....."and then all policy that the advocate is advocating for will be changed in their favor." or "the advocate will be fully satisfied that everything will change for the better and in their favor."  That is strangely missing.  But, what I have noticed is that when things do not go our way, we tend to speak out in a different manner.  We seem to have forgotten what we were originally advocating for!  Confused?  Stick with me.

Too often, situations do not go the way we think they should in the foster care world.  We may have a child and we KNOW that going back to family will not be a walk in the park.  We have witnessed the parent say and do things that we simply do not agree with.  So, as their advocate, we do everything we should.  We document, we email, we print said email, we call, we record said call (kidding) and then we sit back and pour a Spark, or a glass of whatever makes you happy, and relax thinking of a job well done.  And then the child goes home.  To the family.  That you just wrote about.  And called about.  And documented about.  What in the world?  Where did you go wrong?  What detail did you leave off?  Surely, someone made a mistake.

But, no....the child goes home to live a life you could never imagine in a million years and you are wondering why you ever signed up for this in the first place.  Slowly begins the shift from 'full time advocate' to 'fair weather advocate'.  You no longer vocalize the needs of the child, but the incompetency of DHS.  You become a new type of advocate.  One who will stop at nothing to make sure everyone knows how bad a certain caseworker is.  How terrible the system is.  And so forth and so forth.  Somewhere along the way, you become mad and find fault with everyone involved.  All the while, the fact that you have limited time and influence with this child is secondary. 

Trust me, this journey is HARD.  I've had moms accuse me of allowing their child to fall and get hurt, I have had a worker chew me out because she said I was trying to do her job, I have cleaned my house from top to bottom only to have a no show.  I have asked for clothing vouchers until I am blue in the face only to go purchase/borrow the items myself.  I have sent babies home that I knew were going to live a really, hard life. 

But, through it all, I have had to rely on a support system that is great but a God who is even greater.  I have had to remove myself so many times and realize, that I am the advocate for the child.  Does that mean change needs to happen?  Absolutely.  Should I work hard to be a part of the change?  Yes.  Will change happen by closing my home or never opening because I don't want to deal with the ugly?  No.

I am currently reading through the Old Testament in my Bible readings.  More specifically Leviticus and Numbers.  Ouch.  Talk about hard and confusing.  Now, I have an advantage.  I have read ahead and know what happens down the road so I will not stop reading.  I know that at some point I will read about the God of grace and mercy.  In some small way, fostering is a lot like this.  There are days I am so confused by what I hear or see from the people involved.  I do not understand and honestly, some of it makes me mad.  But, I will not give up and will press on to the end.....where I can imagine there is hope, grace and mercy waiting on the other side. 









    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    Being on a Break.....

    This was written a while back, but just getting around to posting.....

    When we were in the process of finalizing the adoption with the girls, taking new foster placements wasn't an option.  We were at our limit of 2 placements and my phone did not ring.  DHS came out for their quarterly visits, but honestly it was much more relaxed.  Their caseworker and I knew each other pretty well at this point so even those monthly visits were short and to the point.  Everything was settling in to our new sense of normal.  Life with 4 young kids settled, I could leave J. O. at home at bedtime and not worry....we were good.

    Then, one night J. O. and I were talking and he and I agreed that after the adoption was final we would not take another placement.  We would help out with respite but that's it.  We decided we would keep our home open though, because one day the kids would be past baby and toddler stage and we didn't want to reopen.  Then, the phone started ringing and emergency turned to temporary, which turned to as long as necessary.  And we are great with that.  We have a spot for a placement and love taking new children and getting to know them, and their story, for however long they may be with us.

    But right now, we are on a break.  I feel like Ross when he was shouting to Rachel post break up...."WE WERE ON A BREAK!!" and I can totally relate to him.  DHS number calling?  No worries..."WE ARE ON A BREAK!", I see a post on FB, no big deal...."WE ARE ON A BREAK!"....people asking who we have right now, I got this...."WE ARE ON A BREAK"....

    And I have to admit, it's kinda nice.  Our reason for this short break is because we just had a placement leave last week and we are heading to the beach in a few weeks.  It would just be hard to send a new placement to another stranger immediately.  So our break consists of around 4 weeks and I will take it.  Like today.....let me just tell you what happened today.  As you read this, I imagine there are Angels singing.  Trey had basketball camp from 1-4, sweet Bethany took Addison and Annalise swimming during this time and Grace slept.  The whole time.  And I watched tv.  Alone.  And laid down.  And ate almonds.  And drank Spark with no one sneaking a drink.  And I cried at Keeping up with the Kardashians.  True story.

    And meanwhile, we are still on a break.  But the harsh reality is, there are kids who are not on a break.  They are not attending basketball camp.  They are not swimming in a neighborhood pool.  They are not asleep in a safe house.  They are wondering who will take them for the night, weekend, or in extreme cases, forever.  They are scared.  They are lonely.  They are mad.

    The reality is, we are home and living on easy street.  But other kids are not that lucky.  The harsh truth is....we may not be taking placements but kids are still entering care.  Summer is hard.  Summer is hard for families to take new placements, but summer doesn't change the fact that kids still enter foster care.  Maybe this summer you SHOULDN'T take a break.  Maybe you should attend an info meeting.  Maybe you should volunteer at DHS.  Maybe you should look at the Heart Gallery.  Maybe God is saying..."Hey, break time is over.  Get up and move."

    We are confident that this month is our rest.  We are to be a family of 6, pray, rest, watch tv, play, go to the lake, etc.  But, we are only to take a break.  We aren't supposed to go to sleep.  And I feel safe saying, you shouldn't be asleep either.

    Friday, May 6, 2016

    Ugh...waiting...

    This was written a couple of weeks ago, but just got around to finishing and sharing today......

    Waiting.  It's not fun.  It's not thrilling.  In fact, I would call waiting one of my least favorite activities.  I don't like to wait in line for rides, shows, on the phone, or anything of the sort really.  It's just not fun.

    But sometimes, God is revealed to us the most in the waiting. 

    J. O. and I are once again in a season of waiting.  About what you may ask?  Well, we really aren't sure.  But, we have been here enough times to recognize when it pops back up.  J.O. actually came home a couple of months ago and said he wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing, but it was something.  What he didn't know was that God had also been stirring my heart as well.  However, for a brief moment I thought...oh goodness...he is being called to the mission field or something crazy and I am about to have to be a single mom of 4.  Because, me going overseas just probably wouldn't happen.  Honesty people.  But, I just cautiously ask him what was going on, and he said he thought he should be giving more, doing more, and he would start there.  Perfect.  I can handle that.  So he has and we have watched a lot of what God is doing in our life around us.  And we are praying.

    The other day, I was praying for God to reveal some things to me and I was reading a chapter in John.  The chapter was about the man who was paralyzed and sat outside the pool all day waiting for a chance to get in the water and be healed.  Everytime he would get close, someone would take his spot or get in first.  So, when Jesus saw him he asked him what he was doing.  The man told him, he was trying to get to the water to be healed.  Jesus then told him to pick up his mat and walk.  Just like that.  The man didn't need to get wet.  The man didn't need to wait on the 10 people in front of him to get finished, or call over friends and family, etc.  He just had to stand up and walk.

    Now, I have read this before.  Several times actually.  But, as I read it this time, I thought....man, to be able to sit by the pool and wait.  For a long time.  And I imagine it was hot and tiring.  And I would be cranky.  And irritated.  And I would have the desire to knock a few people out of the way or even knock them into the pool before they were ready.

    But, all we know is this man faithfully waited his turn.  How hard to do.  But.....look at the end result? Jesus literally spoke and he got up.  He was able to be healed by the words of Jesus.

    Even in waiting, God is faithful.  He is faithful to give us one faith step after another.  He is faithful to show up and talk to us when we are listening.  He is faithful to say....hey....I see you waiting.  Get up. Walk.  Come to me.  

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Why I am mad, and why you should be also.

    I have blogged about this before but some blogs are worth repeating.  I have mentioned before that people say they don't foster because "they could never let a child go."  While I can somewhat understand the sentiment behind this, it implies that people who DO foster are heartless people that sing..."another one bites the dust" while packing their kids up to leave.  Not true, just in case you are wondering.  This also implies that we don't get attached and have no real feelings when kids leave.  Also not true.  This morning Annalise (who is still working through her own attachment issues) asked if C was coming home on Wednesday.

    We hurt the same way you would hurt.  I must admit that I am not a huge emotion showing person.  People who know me well know that I cry tears on the inside.  I jokingly tell people, that I often have to try hard to cry if I know I should be.  I remember this going back to childhood.  I would cry hard and not a single tear would escape.  As I got older, I would read in novels about...wiping away a single tear rolling down their cheek....and I would think, "who are these people who have tears escape so easily???"  It's just not something I am able to do.

    However, last night as I was buckling an almost 2 year old in a strangers car and she was reaching for me and screaming "dadadadadada" over and over, I started crying.  The ugly cry with tears falling down and face all contorted and so forth.  It wasn't pretty.

    And then I got mad.  I got mad that a 21 month old child is in this situation to begin with.  I got mad that she spent Christmas with us, called me mama, ran to me when she was hurt, and ever had to enter the system.  I got mad that because homes that can take siblings are so few and far between that she had to adjust to us and call Trey "bubby" for months before a spot opened up where she could be reunited with her sisters.  I got mad that my kids biggest fears are that we have run out of bacon.  Or that we may not be able to go to Sea World next week while in Texas.  Or that I may forget to wash their favorite pajamas and so forth and so forth.  I got mad that because of these moms dumb decisions, my babies have to suffer.

    And you should be mad too.  You should spend less time worrying about saying goodbye and more time being mad that these kids ever have to be in these situations.  Mentor a young mom, volunteer at a high school with 'at risk' kids, volunteer at DHS and have your eyes opened to reality.  Get mad enough to do something.  These kids deserve so much more.  They deserve more than being ripped from siblings, they deserve more than moving multiple times, these moms deserve proper education and parenting classes that will actually help.

    I cried on my way home and then put on my big girl pants and parented my other 4 kids.  I did that because I am stable, secure and have a husband who helps.  I did that because my pain at shedding real life tears, falling down my face, was far worth it to never having known C at all.  Can't foster because it's too hard to say goodbye??  Sounds pretty selfish when you think about it.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    Food Dyes and other crazy things......

    When I told my sister I was going to homeschool, her reaction was one of complete support.  She started laughing and asked me if my kids were going to learn violin, plant gardens, and learn to sew.  I assured her we would stay as normal as possible and only buy off the rack, never take up violin, and eat highly processed foods.

    Well, here we are almost a year later and I have a confession.  We are becoming those organic, all natural eaters that I used to make fun of.  Let me explain....I only silently judged their cart because I didn't have the desire nor the willpower to change over.  I had my staples that my kids would eat and I excused a lot of it by Trey's pickiness and the fact that he needed to gain weight.  I knew he would never eat that stuff and I couldn't justify paying the extra price for it.  Fast forward and I found myself  constantly dealing with Annalise's extreme focus issues (similar to ADHD without me seeking a diagnosis) and anxiety in Addison.  Addison's anxiety seemed to suddenly take a life of it's own and I was just at a loss of what to do for both of them without seeking medicine.  To be honest, before adding another therapy to our plate I wanted to try something new.  I started doing tons of research and one thing kept coming to the forefront for ADHD and anxiety.  Diet. Diet. Diet.  (disclaimer:  I am ALL for medicine if needed....)

    At first I did the justifying....our diet isn't that bad.  We eat decent for dinner.  But then, I started thinking about breakfast and lunch.  I am ashamed to say that breakfast for the girls was usually Krave cereal and lunch a lot of times would be a lunchable because of ease.  Sure, my healthy go to was a gogurt packed in there, but even that is not good!  So, I decided to start simple.  The main place everyone encouraged starting was getting rid of food dyes.  Okay done.  But wait.....food dyes are in everything!  I encourage you to just look at some of your labels.  If it doesn't list a specific dye, like Blue 2 or Red 40, it will say artificial colors.  So, I started with the obvious.  Doritos, cheezits, goldfish, boxed muffins, candy and so forth.  Then, I got on Amazon Prime Pantry and ordered a new box of food.  I made it fun for the kids and told them there were major changes coming.  They were oddly excited.  I showed them all the new food when it came in and let them try several things.  Now, let me first of all say, we are just focusing on dyes right now.  We do Annie's organic cheddar bunnies that still list a lot of ingredients and so forth.  Some people say food should have no more than 5 ingredients and maybe one day I can do that, but not now.

    Throughout the course of this we also discovered Trey is sensitive to gluten (and a few other things as well) so he has started on a gluten free diet.  I find it amusing that I was pumping him full of junk to help him gain weight and that was never going to work because of this sensitivity.

    So many have asked how my kids have done and the answer is remarkably well.  I think Trey was just ready to feel better and not have so many stomach issues that he was willing to do anything.  They have also discovered that making a lot of our own mini muffins and banana bread is actually pretty fun as well.  One night for dinner I looked at their plate and realized they were all eating chicken, strawberries, couscous, and not a single kid was complaining.  The rule is they have to try it.  They don't have to like it or even finish it, but they will be offered it again and again.  Maybe they will never like it or maybe one day they will love it.  Who knows.  All I know is that I have seen HUGE improvements in both Addison and Annalise in only 2 full weeks of this.  Annalise has slept past 6:00 a couple of times (this is unheard of) and Addison has calmed down as well.  Now, I am also doing some supplements.....we do Epsom Salt in our baths for Magnesium and Addison is on a probiotic and fish oil supplement as well.  Annalise also takes a vegetable capsule that promotes calmness and relaxation each morning and I am waiting on that to take full effect......:)

    So I guess the moral of the story is this.  We are officially hippies.  I no longer judge grocery carts.  I am close to adding a garden in the back yard and I guess I should go ahead and order the violins.  Are you happy Kristi??

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Craniosynostosis.....

    Today, is a post all about Annalise!  I know many have asked me why she still gets scans and then when I try to explain things it is pretty confusing, so I thought I would just clear it all up on a blog post.  Because, that's how all good communication happens right?

    Annalise has a very interesting past, but I don't feel it necessary to tell the whole backstory of how she came into care, etc.  Honestly, I just don't feel that is my story to tell right now.  However, she was born with a medical condition that requires we spend quite a bit of time at Childrens for follow up.

    When Annalise was born she lacked a very important part of development....she was born without a soft spot.  Now, let me tell you....before we met Annalise I thought that was just something that doctors felt for good measure at well child visits.  You know, they look in the diaper, pump the legs and feel the head.  All good.  Well, it actually turns out this thing is pretty darn important.  Basically, a baby has to have this to allow their brain to grow.  As the bones (and brain) in the head grow and fill in, the soft spot gets smaller and smaller and eventually closes up.  It's also important that the soft spot close, because that means the bones have filled in.  So to make sure we are on the same page:  Soft spot when born=good.  Soft spot closing at appropriate age=good.

    So, Annalise was born with a condition called left coronal craniosynostosis.  Luckily, she had a PCP that noticed this and sent her to Childrens and she had surgery on this sometime between 9 and 10 months of age.  Now, this wasn't just any surgery.  It was a major head surgery.  They basically created several soft spots to give the brain room to grow and then did major reconstructive surgery (by a plastic surgeon) to help her head shape.  

    After this surgery, there are two things that can happen as a result.  Bones can fuse too soon again (which is what happens to cause craniosynostois in the first place) and you can be left with bone voids.  Basically, the risk is low for either of these to happen and our precious Annalise has both conditions.  The bone in her forehead has fused too soon causing a ridge in the middle of her forehead.  They also had to "guess" (albeit educated) when they did the original surgery on how far out to extend her forehead.  Unfortunately, they were slightly off.  So we are dealing with a couple of things on her forehead.  A bone fusion, and a forehead that is slightly 'off'.  

    Now, on to the bone voids....this is where they created multiple 'man made' soft spots in her head and basically bone never grew and filled them in.  The scan we did (which looks CRAZY with these voids by the way) shows around 5 spots that haven't filled in.  What does that mean?  It means she basically has holes in her head, under the skin, that are unprotected and that's no good.  Especially if your favorite thing to do is flip off the couch.  

    So long story kinda short.....we had to decide whether to do a major head surgery to correct her forehead right now.  It would be done in the next few weeks and when I say it's major....I mean, it's major.  I have been so torn the last few weeks on what to do, but after meeting with her team of docs Friday, we feel the best answer is to forgo that surgery and just worry about the bone voids.  The forehead is not that bad, and we have made MAJOR progress in therapy and feel this would be a huge setback (she was diagnosed with PTSD last year).  The plastic surgeon agreed, after some time, and the neurosurgeon was in favor on not doing it as well.  The surgery would mean opening and exposing her brain, and we are worried about further cognitive delays with that.  

    So where does that leave us?  Well, the bone voids have to be fixed.  They will give them until age 5 to get as small as they can (several are small...one is large) and then those will require surgery to fix.  It is still major surgery, but way less so than the reconstructive forehead surgery.  It would mean grafting bone from Annalise's hips or ribs and filling in each soft spot.  They want this done by school age because it's just too dangerous to send kids to school with so many voids.  However, the catch 22 is that they also want to wait as long as possible to allow as much closure as possible.  While they are doing the bone voids, they can also do what is called camouflaging and make some of the bones that protrude in her forehead smaller.  

    And while I am laying it all out there, the neurosurgeon is also concerned about her right eye.  The scan shows it sagging significantly and she isn't pleased with her progress.  We will tackle that beast next month at the ophthalmology appointment and the neurosurgeon wants to step in on that as well.

    Friday, I asked several times if the voids could possibly go away completely and then we would not have to do anything.  The surgeon said no.  However, what I do know, is that we serve a BIG God.  He can close those voids tonight, or He can allow them to remain open and in a year we have surgery.  Annalise is the toughest cookie I have ever met.  She is 4 years old and gone through more than most kids her age.  She has come from being in OT, Speech, and PT full time to being in quarterly OT only.  She is battling a PTSD diagnosis and 2 weeks ago, she actually played with the child life specialists MRI tube at the hospital.  She was at Childrens from 11:00-3:30 Friday and not once did she melt down, close up or become physically ill.  She is a fighter and I am adamant that one day this child will do big things.  As a mom, I hate that everything hard seems to be dealt to her, but I also know things aren't promised to be easy.  

    So in the meantime, you can do 2 things....first of all, pray that these spots miraculously close in a year and second of all, if you ever see Annalise doing flips or jumping, please dive bomb in there and protect that head!!  

    Monday, December 21, 2015

    Changes once again......

    Growing up, I lived in the same house from birth until I moved out, and attended the same school K-12th grade.  Nothing much changed.  Ever.  I remember when we had kids, I told J. O. I didn't want to move around to different schools once they started.  I wanted them to remain constant, stable and secure.

    I really think that control is still one of my biggest issues.  I know that may surprise some people because in fostering you really have no control.  You never know how long a child will stay, when they will arrive, when visits will be and so forth.  It's a constant state of unknown.  With fostering, I have been able to wrap my mind around the fact that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with just being there for the child.  We no longer stress about "we had planned to go out to eat tonight, but DHS called...." or "Addison has a birthday party Saturday, but DHS called..."  None of that matters anymore and I mean it!  We are very go with the flow on that.  

    That leads me to school.  I LOVE homeschooling Addison.  I really do.  She's so flexible, a great errand runner, even better shopper, and she's efficient.  She sits down, gets to work and we are done.  That's not to say we don't have our days.  There are times she's rolling in the floor and won't listen, or runs off for a snack in the middle of phonics, but for the most part it works great.  She is becoming more confident in school and has made a huge friend group.  It's been ideal.

    Enter Trey.  Trey drives me bonkers.  He can't focus to eat breakfast, put his socks on, locate lunch boxes or water bottles, and he is often running 5 steps behind.  He lacks every bit of efficiency I have.  And, he has decided he wants to give homeschooling 'a try' as he puts it.  To be honest, this year has been hard for him.  He sees his sister be carefree every day after school and he is doing homework.  He hears about us running to different places and naturally, since she is the only one with me, she often gets a Sonic drink, or new book, etc.  Trey is so laid back, but for the first time I have noticed jealousy and almost resentment from him since the beginning of the year.  So, he started saying he wanted to try it for 5th grade.  That's where J. O. and I had to make some hard decisions.  I knew he couldn't just do it for a month or two at the beginning of the year, because having been a teacher myself, that is too hard on everyone.  So, we sat down and talked to him and told him if he really wanted to do it, he had to do it after Christmas break.  This way, he would know whether or not to start 5th grade back at traditional school or at home.  He was very nervous and thought about it for awhile, but then agreed.  

    I am going rogue with Trey.  He is doing a totally different curriculum and starting brand new.  He went and looked at the program and when I picked him up, he said his favorite thing was that he knew nothing.  He loved the fact that it was all brand new information.  

    I have no idea what to expect.  I am sending him (and Addison) to a place on Monday that teaches them and lays out their work for the week.  I am hoping this will be better for him to have some direction during the week and know what is expected of him.

    People ask if I am sad to not be returning, and the truth is....I'm really not.  I think this is the right time for everyone.  It's more strange than anything else.  Trey is sad to not be with his friends everyday, but thankfully he is still playing basketball and knows a ton of kids who go to the places he will go on Monday and Thursday.  I think I am more scared Trey won't like it and it will be a long semester until summer.  Or that he will love it, and then I will suddenly find myself responsible for the education of two kids.

    One thing I know for sure is that I will take one day at a time, and relish a semester of not worrying about signing a red notebook!! :)