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!! :) 

Monday, November 30, 2015

New definition of hard....

We had the absolute perfect baby for two months.  I mean, seriously.  When they called about him, they said he was 8 weeks old.  I hesitated because J. O. has one request....that we don't take newborns.  In his defense, baby B about did us all in.  But, in true Tamra fashion, I said sure and figured I would ask for forgiveness later.  After all, J. O. is pretty laid back.

This baby came to us and the first night he slept through the night.  I was shocked.  J. O was shocked.  We then found out his birthday was wrong and he was actually 3 months old so it made a little more sense.  This baby reminded me of Trey from the word go.  He was content, he was so happy, everyone fell in love with him and there were several times that I thought...'there is no way I am letting this one leave.'  J. O. and I actually discussed that this would be one of our harder goodbyes.  The whole family loved him and he just 'fit'.

Well, of course the time came to say goodbye and we were happy to see him head home in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family, but we found ourselves waking up wondering how he slept, how he ate, etc.  It was then, I was reminded that people truly don't do this because this is the part they want to avoid.  The goodbye.  The hard part at the end.  I will admit, a part of me didn't want to see this baby leave because I knew there would be NO WAY our next placement would be as easy.  There.  I said it.

And I was right.  DHS called me Tuesday and asked if we could do respite through Sunday night.  It was for two boys....ages 4 and 6 years old.  They walked in at 8:30 a.m. and stole our hearts from the word go.  The little one was calling me mama by 9:00 and the older one by lunch.  They yelled for mama and daddy constantly and the older one told us heartbreaking stories of how his daddy was in jail and he will be going home to his 'real' momma soon.  We dealt with things like middle fingers, curse words and Addison and the 6 YO falling in love, but I would do it all again tomorrow.  I have never slept better in my entire life.  I hit the pillow at night and crashed.  I was tackled out of affection, almost fell down the stairs, couldn't figure out how to make a strong and physical 6 year old get in the car when it was time to leave and so forth.  But, I miss those boys like crazy!  They have stories and laughter that babies just can't tell when they are with us.  They have lived a life that my kids can't imagine.  When Addison asked me why the older one was saying hateful things, I had a chance to talk to her about how life probably seemed so unfair to this boy.  And it is!  He doesn't deserve any of this.  He deserves a family, stability, electronics to play on (we gave him full rights to Trey's and he was in Heaven!), a home, extended family and so forth.  Both of those boys do.

I am not going to lie.  Last week was exhausting!!  But, it's hard to explain to people who aren't doing this, that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Did I enjoy my day today with only Addison at home?  YES!!  Am I relishing in the quiet evening at home tonight?  OF COURSE!!  But, if DHS called right now, I would say yes again.

Our pastor said something Sunday that I loved.  He was talking about our upcoming outreach we have next week at church and asking for more volunteers.  He was talking about how his own 7 year old will be at church for all of the Tree performances and it will likely be exhausting.  His point was that a mission trip is to teach children that life is not all about themselves.  Our kids shared games, electronics, bath toys, time, lots of attention, and much more while these boys were here last week.  There were nights they were over it, but they learned that life is not about them.  Life is about so much more.

Give me the hard and the hard goodbyes over the easy any day.  I mean it!  My memories of sweet baby D and these boys are worth so much more than any discomfort I may feel.  Sometimes, I think we adults also forget that we aren't here for our ease and comfort.  It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Orphan Sunday and The Red Cup

If you were at our church on Orphan Sunday, you were moved.  No, I haven't talked to each and every one of you, but unless you literally fell into an Adam-type sleep, then you were moved.  It started at the beginning of the service when the Removed video was broken up and shown in several pieces.  I've seen the video.  I've shared the video.  I've even shown the video to a group of women I was talking to one morning.  But I was still in the pew doing the ugly cry.  At one point, J. O. looked at me and said, "they're going to move her again aren't they?" and all I could get out was, "no, her brother is here!!"  It's moving, it's heartbreaking and if most of us will be honest with ourselves, we know it's reality.

I made Addison and Trey sit in church with us Sunday because I wanted them to hear Christie speak and watch the video.  I had a view of the back of Addison's head most of the time and I couldn't really tell if she was listening or trying to pull a fast one on her friend's aunt for most of the service.  Last night though, I heard her telling Trey and Annalise she was making price tags for her clothes so she could sell them and raise money for when she is married and begins to foster.  She wants to raise money for the kids she may have.  Addison is ADAMANT that she will never have a baby the old fashioned way.  She said there is no need to go through all that pain when she can foster or adopt.

As I listened to her going through the clothing store rules and regulations, I realized it was on her mind.  Then last night when she was taking a shower, she asked me why our preacher showed that video if he knew kids would be in there.  I asked her what she meant, and she told me because it was so sad.  I told her it was so we could see it and understand what it feels like for these kids a little better.  We then related that to how Annalise felt when she came into care and her brother wasn't with her, or how the twin we had several months ago felt because she was separated from her sister.

I was thinking about all this today and realized.....Addison has the right idea.  She saw something that made her sad and uncomfortable so she came home and started getting to work.  I now have little pieces of paper with dollar amounts ALL over the house.  I will admit I did stop her when she started pulling everything out of her closet, but I also assured her we would get some things together soon.  We as adults are just not the same are we?  We are sad, feel moved and then move on.  Now, I can hear several people saying...."well, that's not fair.  We can't do that."  Okay, maybe you can't take care of extra kids.  I can't either and I do it every day.

Or maybe you legitimately can't.  Your husband says NO (make sure he really does though and it's not just you assuming), or you don't feel called to take kids into your home (make sure that's legit too, because some days I feel called to become an alcoholic and run away, but I refrain) or you just aren't sure what to do.  Honestly, there are lots of ways to become involved that don't look like fostering or adopting and sometimes you just have to search those out.  Be proactive.  Be assertive.  Be moved to action.

Now on to this red cup thing.  If you haven't heard, Starbucks gave out a plain red cup and some lone ranger decided they were now anti-Christmas and we should boycott or at the very least give the name, Merry Christmas so they have to write it on your cup.  I do NOT believe that multiple Christians were outraged, but simply one man.  However, look how big it became.  It's all over FB.  It's the new lion that was killed by the Dentist.  Here's my point with it though.  We are always ready and willing to fight these causes.  A plain red cup from Starbucks????  Aw, heck no.  And the crusade begins.  But yet, we are so willing to go listen to a moving sermon on Orphan Sunday (in churches everywhere) and cry, get more tissue, and then move on.  Not everyone.  But some.  Be moved to action.  If you are called to go, go.  If you are led to act, act.  If a 6 year old girl, OBSESSED with her clothes can be willing to clean them out to raise money for these kids, surely you can do something too right?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Can you Repeat That.....Over and Over Again??

I have decided to try the ol blog one more time after I successfully skipped an entire month.  Let's just act like that was the plan all along.

I can be a very slow person sometimes.  Not slow as in getting ready, getting the house clean, staying on task, etc, but slow to really understand things.  I am one of those people who will take a very elementary principle and have to stew on it for a long time.  I am sure most people read things, accept it, understand it, and then move on.  I will read something, accept it, agree with it, re-read it, think about it, come back to it, take a picture of it with my phone to revisit later, and then think on it while I am in bed.  It's a problem really.

The other day, Annalise and I were in therapy and she kept repeating herself over and over and doing the same motion.  The therapists and I were talking and she stopped me and said...."when kids repeat themselves they are trying to tell us something."  So we stopped and listened and of course Annalise decided to stop as well.

The other night, I was in Bible study and our story was on the temptation of Eve.  Now, in all honesty, I didn't realize our study that night would be on the temptation of Eve because the previous week, my book had been magically displaced (it has since been found right where I left it).  However, as I was listening, it hit me.  I had just studied this in depth at home with Addison, our Community Bible Study lesson had touched on it, and here I was hearing it again.  It was at that moment, I realized I needed to stop and listen.

But about what?  A basic story about Eve?  We all know the gist....she was tempted, tried the fruit, gave it to Adam, hid from God and then it was over.  They knew they had sinned, had to leave the garden, etc.......

I came home that night and continued to think on this.  I started thinking about Eve.  I will be honest....I have never really thought of Eve on a personal level.  Never really thought about this more than just 'it is what it is.'  She was tempted, she gave in and they paid the price.  End of story.

Only, there is so much more to it.  Eve, thought by tasting this fruit she would gain wisdom.  It was very pretty too and looked so good.  She looked at this piece of fruit for so long that she started to justify it.  She started thinking...there's nothing wrong with this.  I mean, I can kinda relate......I know eating an entire plate of cookies over and over again, could one day lead to diabetes, but sometimes the temptation is too strong.  Eve, knew there were plenty of other options in that Garden, but in that moment, at that time, she couldn't think of anything else except that piece of fruit.

I am SOOOO bad at this.  I can often think....if only I had more patience, if only I had more free time, if only we could afford all this, if only I could have what 'so and so has'.  It can look so much more appealing, so much prettier, so much better tasting than the leftovers I am currently serving.

However, that never really works out so well, huh?  Trying to live someone else's life, or being discontented with what we have and looking at others......Thinking that what they have would make us happy.  It will always leave us unsatisfied and before we know it we are hiding in shame and unhappiness.

So, all that to say crazy life may be at times very unappealing.  It may look like an apple that has gotten a little too soft and brown.  It may look like a dried out cookie and there is a fresh plate just within reach.  It may look more like dirty diapers and chaos and less like crisp linens and flowers.  And in those times, I can stare at the shiny red apple for so long, that I start to justify it.  We should close our home, I should go back to work to get out for a bit, we should move to the country, change our numbers and hide.  But in those moments, God is faithful to remind me not to go there.  Don't be tempted by the shiny things of the world that can make it all look easy.  It's in these times, He will often use a child with a toy in therapy and a Bible story to catch my attention.  So for today, I will be thankful for the chaos, the kids, the carpools, the craziness and see it for what it is.....the only piece of fruit I need.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Boy Mom.....I am not....

Tonight, I want to give major props to all you boy moms out there.  Kellie, you come to mind immediately.  You handle boys with a mixture of toughness and grace that I just don't have.  Suzanne, you also come to mind.  You have taught your boys to make their own lunch since they started pre-k. They come over to my house and have impeccable manners and don't nag you at every turn.  You are also the one who warned me that 9 would be the year of the hormone.

From here on out, I can only refer to it as 'the hormone'.

This post has little to do about adopting/fostering but a lot to do about my own inadequacies at raising a boy.  Today, Addison actually told me these things..."That I was taking away her soul, I had no idea how she felt, she was teaching me tomorrow, I couldn't enforce time out anymore (she soon saw otherwise) and that I was no longer cool."  I took all with a grain of salt and literally cried laughing at some.  I get her.  She is me.  She is strong willed, smart aleck, witty, funny and will not be run over.  I love it.  And her.  She's my new favorite right now.

Enter Trey.  Oh. My. Goodness.  He is in a whole new era and he is like a foreign creature.  I look at him and I see a green alien.  He cries at the drop of a hat.  He has become a smart mouthed pre-teen at 9.  He forgets his school books.  Every. Single. Night.  He won't go to sleep.  Some small part of him wants to be rocked to sleep, but an even bigger part of him wants to distance himself.  He is jealous of the attention Addison is getting.  He is struggling with 4th grade.  He hates all the homework.  He loves football.  He isn't that great at football.  And so on and so on.

And I don't understand.  I don't get the crying.  The need to push.  The need to hit with pads on.  The smart aleck comments.  The loss of my little boy who lived to make everyone happy.

He is changing and it's tough.  We are keeping a 5 YO boy right now who is transitioning to an adoptive home.  This little boy has my heart but he has Trey's nerves.  Trey got in the car the other day and looked back and said...."he's still here?"  It broke my heart.  I mean, innocence is gone.  For the first time, Trey expressed his own feelings first.  This boy annoys him and he would like him moved please.  He is used to babies who cry and mommy or daddy change a diaper and the world is right again.  He is not used to kids who takes his toys, hit him, or demand my attention for school.

We had a long talk about orphans and he quickly changed his tune.  He learned more about his background and decided one of two options:  He either liked him, or he would pretend to like him because I am making him.

Basically, I am struggling.  I am struggling with the changes Trey is showing.  I am struggling with the loss of my 'go with the flow boy', I am struggling with my non diagnosed ADD child, I am struggling with 'the hormone', and for what it's worth I am just struggling.

Here is my one adoptive/fostering plug....if you don't do it because you are worried about how you will handle these kiddos, or how you will bond.....let me just end with this.....I ALWAYS feel more protective, more in tune, more 'mama bear' with my foster/adoptive kiddos.  I get them.  I can sympathize with them.  I can handle the crying.  And so forth and so forth.  If someone wants to come over and raise my bio boy....well, that would be great.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Politics and Religion.....

This post has zero to do with politics or religion, but I really figured people wouldn't know what to do if they saw something on Facebook that didn't have that in the title.  I mean, not to sound too old or anything but do you remember when Facebook was this....

Tamra Ward Norman is.....bored.
Tamra Ward Norman is.....feeling tired.

I mean, it basically gave you the option of filling in the blank.  Now, people truly think they can solve all disagreements on Facebook.  I am all for raising awareness and posting about things you believe in on there.  I mean, my posts are mostly about Foster Care/Orphan Awareness and Spark.  Things I am passionate about.  However, I know I can't just rant and rave about it and sit back and do nothing.  It's why we have 2 extra kiddos this week who are 1 and 2.  That's right...we currently have a 1, 2, 2, 3 and 9 year old (Addison is on vacay).  Fun times.  Don't just post and gripe.  Be quieter and do more.

Okay, totally not what I was going to write about......

We are starting a new journey this year with homeschooling and I have already learned a ton.  Don't worry....I won't take homeschooling on as my personal crusade too, but I do feel like I should pass on things I have learned so far.

Not all homeschool moms do it because they hate public school but can't afford private.  Sadly, I really figured this was the majority of people out there.  It may be a few, but by no means the majority.  Honestly, I am realizing most of these moms do it because they truly feel it's best for their child and they aren't afraid of taking it child by child/year by year.  They don't want to keep their child isolated and they aren't afraid of everyone.  They just want to do what they think is best.  These moms don't blink an eye when I say I have one at AB, one homeschooled and two at 2nd Presbyterian.

They are the most flexible people on schedules.  I am not.  I am trying.  If one curriculum doesn't work, they research another.  If a playdate comes up, they go and do schoolwork after dinner.  If their child wants to go to Texas for the week, even though they had planned to start school the same day as AB, they adjust (maybe...still looking at the big star on the calendar and taking deep breaths).  It's a learning process for me, but I am learning.  Now, the teacher in me will get the work done and it will be done well, but it most likely will not be done within the normal hours that I am used to.

This gets old to hear I know....but.....I actually had to decide what to do and cut out because there are literally programs for every day of the week.  Right now, I have her enrolled in Bible Study, Art Class, SEEK and Homeschool Academy.  And that just scratches the surface.  I have had to say no repeatedly on various activities because like it or not....we need to be at home some.

It can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it.  I need some time off so I am paying for SEEK and Academy because I need someone else to teach her Science and I need her to have a day in a classroom setting at the Academy.  I will say though, compared to private's a breeze.

In short.....we are still excited, she is still excited, we are still taking it on a yearly basis and I am doing it for no other reason than, Addison begged and we felt God saying it was the right move.

That's it for now.  Now please.....someone go save the world with a lengthly Facebook post.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I know how it sounds.....

Dear public:

When I thank my child for throwing a stuffed animal at me instead of hitting me....I know how it sounds.

When I tell my child, "good job" when she screams and simply puts her mouth on my shoulder instead of biting me....I know how it sounds.

When I tell my child, in a very public restaurant, that I know she needs to smell her chair first, but it's dirty so don't put her mouth on it....I know how it sounds.

When I give a noncommittal "uh-huh" when people say how normal she is/looks/acts, etc....I know how it sounds.

When I find out my child hit in MDO or at the gym and instead of disciplining or making threats of discipling, I ask first if the child touched her....I know how it sounds.

When she pushes down a baby, and hurts the baby, because they touched her 'space' and I tell her I know that made her nervous before I address the behavior.....I know how it sounds.

When everyone else sees the absolute best of her because she saves it all for home and for me....I know how it sounds.

When I sound like a broken record explaining her behavior over and over to therapists....I know how it sounds.

When I tell people J.O. and I are getting away, yet again, for another mini vacay or night out.... I know how it sounds.

I get it.  I've been the parent on the watching end before thinking "there's nothing wrong", "they are blowing this way out of proportion," "they seem so 'normal'," "their kid is so smart," and so on and so on.

So, just know.....I know how it sounds.  I know I am now labeled by some as "that" mom.  The mom of a child who is simply a discipline problem in a lot of classes.  The mom of a child who would still be fine to leave with the nearest stranger.  The mom of a child who has such anxiety that when she hears the door open at 5am, she runs out yelling, "daddy left me."  The mom of a child who makes everyone feel so special because everyone is her best friend.  I get it.

Truth is, I know how it sounds, but I have no idea how it feels.  And I doubt you do either.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Confessions of a Non Super Mom.....

We have great summer interns at our church and I have loved getting to know them a little better.  Our kids love them, and they love our kids.  The other day, I was walking in to church on a Tuesday morning with the crew and one of the guys said, "you are super mom, aren't you."  As I stood there basking in the compliment, I heard an audible laugh.  Luckily, one of my good friends was walking by, and was able to bring me down a few notches by not being able to keep her laughter in....(thanks, Scarlett).

Seriously though, I was thinking on this and thought how easy it is for people to look at other situations and think:  "Man, they have it all together.  There is no way I could do that.  I am struggling with my one or two.  They must have more time, energy, patience, etc than me."

Now, I am not saying this went through the head of a young college intern, but it just made me think. So....let me dispel some myths.

1.)  I am NOT more patient than you.  In fact, I would venture to say I am more uptight than you.  Clutter sends me into orbit and I have to work hard not to put up toys behind the kids as they are playing.  5 kids has made it a necessity to let some of that obsession go, but it's still not easy.  I also have NO patience with defiance.  People think because we have so many young kids, I must be more patient with chaos and disobedience.  Absolutely not.  In fact, let me tell you a story to show my immaturity.....
The other day, my strong willed 3 year old had a terrible day.  Like major regression day.  I had been hit with hands, toys, a few stray spit bubbles, so forth.  We had walked all day to our time out (or in...however you want to word it) spot a lot.  We had tried quiet alone time, quiet together time, nap, etc.  It just wasn't working and by about 4:00, I was done being the mature adult.  I was screamed at one more time and I asked her if she would like someone doing that to her.  She said yes, so then I had to back track.  I asked her again, "you want me to yell in your face?"  She was adamant.  So then, I just said....well, I am not going to do that.  That proceeded fit number 2,548 because I wouldn't yell.  So what did I do???  I would love to tell you I walked away calmly but instead I did a louder than normal..."AHHHH".  Not directly in her face but loud enough to get my point across and of course that didn't go too well either.  Super mom?  More like super crazy....

2.)  I am NOT a natural mom or kid lover.  There are people who are just natural moms.  You know what I mean....they exude "momness" and all things mom.  They do crafts with their kids voluntarily and not because something is due at school.  They bake with their kids for fun and not because all of a sudden you realize your 9 year old can't work a microwave or crack an egg.  They love being around kids and treat all kids with equal amounts of fun.  They don't sit in a rocking chair in the corner when they work the nursery at church, they actually play with the kids....not that I do that....  They are just more natural at it than me.  I know it sounds crazy to say, but I am just not that mom.  I love those moms and admire them, but it's not me.  I am not a good "sit in the floor and make believe, imagine, pretend, dress up, invent, etc.." type mom.  I am more practical, orderly, "what color is this" type mom.  Super mom?  More like obsessive, compulsive mom.....

3.)  I am not more qualified than you.  Whether you have 1 kid or 10 kids, adopted kids or biological kids, foster kids or relatives living with you, we are all in this together.  I have no more ability to do any of this than you do.  On my own, I fail all day long.  On my own, I lose it.  In those moments when I forget where my strength comes from, I scream in the kitchen.  On my own, I want to sit in a closet and cry.  On my own, I fail miserably. is ONLY through God's grace and mercy that I make it through the day and I would venture to guess, you would say the same.  I ask my kids for forgiveness a lot.  I think it is so important for them to understand I am not perfect.  The other day, I argued with a 2 year old.  Seriously?  She's 2.  And guess what...I was wrong.  She had no idea what it meant, when I said...."I am so sorry Grace, I was wrong.  Please forgive me."  Knowing her personality, she either growled at me or smiled but the important thing is....I said it, and hopefully one day she will say it too.

Alone, I am NOT super mom.  However, I AM more than qualified to have the title of "dysfunctional, slightly crazy, disorganized, no makeup wearing, sometimes shower taking, amazing, miracle, child of the King, and through Him and with Him, a pretty super mom."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What's new with us.....

Well, we are going on over two months of having our one night, super temporary, emergency placement. This is the call we got at 10:00p.m. one night and she got here at 11:00p.m.  I told DHS she could sleep at our house but that I was leaving the next day for a women's retreat so she would need to find a permanent placement for her by then.  I knew J. O. could not handle a 9, 6, 3, 2, 1 year old on his own.

So, in typical Tamra fashion I didn't sleep much and just wondered what in the world would happen.  Who would they really find on a Friday to take in the baby?  The next morning I had already made up my mind that if someone could help us out while I was at the retreat we may not need to push for her to leave.  It made me all the more determined by how tiny she was and the fact that I finally woke her up at 10:30 the next morning because she was exhausted.  I did tell myself that if J. O. said absolutely not, I wouldn't push back.

I called the caseworker around 8:30 Friday morning and just wanted to see what she had planned for her.  Our plan Thursday night was for me to have her back at DHS around noon on Friday.  She answered the phone and sounded absolutely exhausted.  I asked her if she was okay and she told me she hadn't made it home yet.  She had another call after she left our house and that one was to place a teenager, which is not the easiest to do.  So, I told her we were fine for now and don't worry about us.  I started frantically looking for someone to help for the night and thankfully my mom was able to take Addison and the baby.

That left me to call J. O. and tell him that until she went to court and we knew more, there was literally nowhere else for her to go.  It was so funny because all I had to do was call J. O. that morning and he just said, sure.  Luckily he is so laid back, because the other day we found out some not so favorable things for mom, and I just text him the results followed up with 'Happy Fathers Day'.....

We have just been trucking along and to say it's not hectic would be an absolute lie.  This time, with all my commitments, and with having the little girls (and now big kids) home all the time for summer, I have her in daycare.  We are blessed with a great caseworker who set that up immediately and they transport her to all her visits each week.  The nights and weekends are hard and hectic, but we make it work.  Trey was so sweet about the fact that I wasn't able to go to many of his games and honestly I am very glad baseball season has ended.  Addison's swim meet Saturday was a slight step up from disaster and for that I am going to be grateful.  Being outside in summer heat for 3 hours (and we left early) isn't easy on anyone.  Let alone 3 toddlers.

The fact is, there are a lot of nights I am so overwhelmed I can't see straight.  This year has once again been the year for me to give things up.  Annalise has 2 therapy appointments a week I will pour myself into, and I will continue to work on the things that I am passionate about.  For now those things include....orphan ministries, homeschooling and continuing to work from home with AdvoCare.

It's once again funny to me how God will speak when we will listen.  The 2 short term placements before Baby S, were simply that...short term.  This baby will be with us until she goes home, goes to live with her brother, or moves somewhere else permanently.  I will pray for her when she leaves, I will take a deep breath when she leaves, and I will then start, 4 kids is really easy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Me and Michelle Duggar......

Wow.  It has once again been awhile.  I know you have all been on pins and needles waiting on the latest post.  Rest assured's here.

A lot has been going on so I thought I would do a general post filling people in and then next year, when I get to it, post about the details.

We are, once again, taking placements.  After the first temporary placement we realized we could continue to help out on a short term basis so that is exactly what we are doing.  Short term.  So, don't worry about the baby who was going to spend one night with us and is currently upstairs asleep in her room.  Also, don't tell J. O., but I kinda love her a lot.  Don't get me wrong, our family is complete, but who's to say we can't have a tiny tagalong for awhile.  Addison told me the other night she thought this would be the "missest" baby since baby B.  I agree, Addison.

Remember a while back when I jokingly said that we would have to pick our favorite to send to private school and Trey was in the running?  This just in....he won.  Next year, we have decided to give homeschooling a go with Addison.  Now, before you tune me out and have a mental picture of me sitting around knitting knee length skirts and adding in 19 Kids and Counting as a part of our curriculum, hear me out.  I have NEVER been good about actually listening to my kids.  What do they know anyway?  They are here to be my robots and then one day grow up to be adult robots who treat their kids like robots too.  Right?  Well, somewhere along the way I realized I shouldn't just blow off everything they say.  So, when Addison asked me for the 400th time (since K4) to homeschool, I actually sat her down and talked to her about it.  It was kinda weird and strangely grown up.  She gave me her reasons, I gave her mine for not wanting to, and we both committed it to prayer.  And we did.  I heard her pray about it and I did too.

Fast forward a few months and J. O. and I were talking one morning and much like our fostering decision, we decided we were all on the same page and would give it a go.  I would be lying if I said I wouldn't much rather pay someone else to educate my child.  However, Addison marches to the beat of her own drum and she thrives in a home setting with her mother.  It can absolutely wear me out, but that's why I have also signed her up for other things two days a week.

Now before people jump to conclusions and talk about me behind my back (I mean, I know it has already happened but still....), let me throw out some myths....we aren't doing this to save a buck so I can continue to stay home.  Would that be wrong??  Absolutely not, but it's not our motive.  We always planned to send both of them to AB next year and had it budgeted fine.  We knew we had a couple more years before decisions needed to be made on the little girls and whether or not to have four in private school.  We had decided, when that time came, we would evaluate the best needs for everyone and make decisions then.

I also fully know this will be much harder than either of us realize.  I think people almost enjoy when people give homeschooling a go, and then end up returning to school.  What, you mean teaching my child who thinks she knows more than I do and doesn't learn as naturally as her brother won't be easy?  Shocking.  There is no pride here....I fully anticipate we might be back to school in December and if there is no spot she may be the first to give different schools a try.

In short, our life is still nothing like I thought it would be.  I haven't worn nice clothes in a month, my daily phone conversations with friends usually start with...."who is your caseworker this time", the other day when I saw a child strike out in baseball and then throw his helmet and bat repeatedly, I had sincere sympathy for his family and absolutely no ounce of judgment, when people say they are going to homeschool next year I no longer inwardly think 'pure craziness'.

God is continually changing my plan.  My plan was for the kids to stay put, I would return to work (hopefully part time) when they were all 4 in school and life would settle....and who knows....this still may be the plan eventually!  However, one thing I have learned is that even though I am nervous and slightly hesitant about this new path, it will be better than I could have ever imagined.  Hard....yes.  Frustrating....yes.  Duggarish....yes.  But... if there is one thing I have learned from fostering, it's that I would rather live in the plan God has for me and it be hard, than constantly running from what He would have me to do.

Now....let the jokes begin friends.  I can take it....

Friday, March 20, 2015

I can do all things....

The other day, I was talking to one of my friends on the phone and I told her I thought I needed to email my resource worker and tell her that we could take a child for a short time if they needed us to.  Not respite, but a placement.  Doing that is always tricky because they may or may not move them!  If you are doing respite, you know they are only there for a set number of days.  However, with the influx of kids coming into care, I just felt like we should do something.

That was Wednesday morning and in typical Tamra fashion the day went on without me emailing.  I didn't think much more about it and at 4:15 my phone rang.  It was DHS needing a placement for a 1 year old Hispanic girl.  I said yes, but we could only keep her through the weekend.  This lady was thrilled and told me the caseworker would be calling me.  Well, this caseworker was great.  She showed up at my house at 6:30, with her kid in the car too, and sacks of clothes, boxes of diapers, wipes, socks, shoes, etc.  It was so nice.  She handed me a TINY baby and headed home.

J. O. got home about this time too and got to work on the crib and I gave her a bath, got her things sorted and tried to get her settled.  She was a mess, bless her heart.  She had literally just come into care and little did she understand how much her life had just changed in a day.  She didn't sleep well, she didn't feel well, she wasn't used to so much stimulation and quite frankly life was just tough for her.  But, I loved this little girl immediately.  I thought of various ways to make keeping her for a placement work, I thought of ways to fit the crib in our closet so we could all sleep better, I thought of it all.  But, God told me that wasn't the plan.  The plan for this placement was for me to truly do what I said.  Help out until a more permanent foster home could be found.  So I did.  I rocked her, I held her, I cleaned her, I dressed her cute, I fed her until I thought she might pop, I played with her and today, they called, and I packed her clothes and sent her on to house #2.

I am no different than you.  Wednesday night, Trey and Addison were with Cecily watching a movie and J.O. and I had actually planned a quiet night at home with the little girls.  I was looking forward to an easy night and it quickly turned into something more.  I am no different.  J. O. is no different.  However, when Addison walked in that night and came in our room and saw a new baby crawling on the floor; she went crazy.  She screamed, she squealed, she took her to her room to show her the toys and she understood she wouldn't be with us long.  They learned part of her story and I can promise you even though she was only with us for 2 1/2 days, they will talk about her for a long time.

In Bible study one of our weeks was on the fact that we can do all things through Christ.  We can.  You can.  I can.  We can change our focus so quickly when we are driving home and get a phone call. Our focus can change from what's for dinner to wondering if we need to stop and grab formula.  Please pray for these kids.  As much as I wanted to keep this baby until she either went home or moved to someone else, we couldn't.  Please pray for these workers. They are tired.  Please pray for the foster families.  The families who ARE taking placements even though their house is full, their lives are hectic, and their time is short.  We are all busy.  We are all running on fumes, but when Christ is our strength....we can do all things through Him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First World Problems....

I have had some major first world problems over here the last few days and if you are honest with yourself, I bet you would agree.  Because, I have no problem busting myself out....let me illustrate what I mean.

Getting to the grocery store Sunday before the madness hit and still getting what you enjoy eating.  For example, we had to get the wrong kind of yogurt because it was all they had left.  Ugh....didn't they have the lower sugar, Greek yogurt?  I mean, I choked it down this am with my organic oatmeal, but still (sarcasm).  #firstworldproblems

We are now a society that competes on Facebook on snow days.  Stick with me....moms have always been good at doing the working mom shame, or the stay at home mom shame, but now we do it on snow days.  I will be honest....snow days make me bipolar.  One minute, I am skipping around the house playing tag with the kids and the next I am hiding in the corner crying.  Not that extreme, but you get the picture.  However, we now have shaming on both ends.  You either have to love it or hate it.  What happened to all of us laughing together over the hits and misses of snow days??  Over here...the reality is....I wanted to paint yesterday morning and I was cranky life had not gone how I wanted.  I couldn't leave, I was irritated, the kids were begging to go out and sled at 7:00am and I was tired.  How hard is it to have a few uninterrupted hours with Pandora playing and painting.  #firstworldproblems

Yesterday Sonic messed up my flavored water.  #firstworldproblems

I haven't been able to run outside and my gym membership is on hold.  #firstworldproblems

I needed some meat yesterday and Whole Foods was out of what I wanted so we will eat out tonight. #firstworldproblems.

Okay, enough sharing all my flaws.  My point is this.....yesterday my attitude stunk (and is still kinda there today) and by stunk I mean, I was a big ol baby at times.  Of course, I love my kids!  2 of them are home #alldayereday anyway!  But, I do A LOT of work from home and it's not happening right now....wah, wah, wah...right??

However, God has a way (when we allow Him) of putting it all in perspective.  This morning, as I was sitting with Addison on the computer my phone rang.  Here are the #realworldproblems....

9 month old and 2 year old just spent the night at DHS office. #realworldproblems

More than 8 kids came into care last night and most were still at DHS office. #realworldproblems

Caseworker that showed up at a foster parents house this am, was still in same clothes from yesterday, and was trying to get all the new children entering foster care into the doctor before weather in their part of town got bad.  #realworldproblems

Friend just took another placement because a 1 year old was still at DHS office.  1 year old people.  When our babies were one we were still lysoling the air at play dates.  This baby has been at DHS for who knows how long, waiting on somewhere to go.  #realworldproblems

So many more, but you hopefully get the point.  These are not #thirdworldproblems.  They are #pulaskicountyproblems.  These are OUR kids.  Ouch.

Friday, February 6, 2015

One stair at a time....

Grace is a laid back, mellow kid but there are certain things she does (like any child) that absolutely drive me crazy.  One of them in particular is that she stands at the bottom, or top, of the stairs and screams until we either grab her hand or carry her down.  She won't walk on her own because we can go so much faster than her.  She screams bloody murder until someone has pity and goes and gets her.  And it drives me nuts.  Why??  Because I'm human and value my sanity.  It's also not a matter of not being able to walk down, but she just doesn't want to be left at the top or bottom alone.  Patience may or may not be her strong suit.  Just sayin'.

The other day, I had my hands full and Annalise and Grace both needed to come down the stairs.  Annalise is always fine to walk down by herself UNLESS someone might grab Grace.  Then she wants the same attention.  Since, this wasn't a day that I could grab both of them, I sat down and thought we could all scoot down together.  Annalise loved that idea and made it down in record time.  Grace, not so much.  She was not buying what I was trying to sell.  She sat down at the top and proceeded to scream her injustices until someone got her hand or picked her up.  So, I did what any good mother would do.  I scooted on down and put all the stuff I was carrying up and figured by this time she would be down.  No such luck.  She was poised at the top and ready to battle it out.  Now, in all honesty.....this could've gone 2 ways.  Knowing she could see us and was safe, I may have decided to continue to work at the bottom of the stairs and wait for her to scoot on down, or I could decide to go up and help her down.  This day, I was overflowing with grace, love and mercy (ha!) so I went back up to coax her down.

I sat down beside her and waited on her to realize I was back to help, and then I got her hand and talked to her the whole way down.  We usually sing the ABC's coming down the stairs or count (and only in Spanish for some odd reason....Annalise started that tradition) but today I just kept saying...."almost there, one more step, you can do it..." and so forth.  When we made it to the bottom, I praised her and we parted ways.  Her to play, and me to cook dinner.

As I started dinner, I couldn't stop thinking about what had just happened.  I have told you guys before that I am a very simple person.  God uses my kids and basic life lessons to teach me All. The. Time.  I started thinking on how I was encouraging Grace to take her time and focus on one step at a time and how badly I needed to listen to that message myself.  I worry a lot about things that are out of my control.  I still try to plan for things down the road that I really and truly have no control over.  How often am I the toddler standing at the top throwing a temper tantrum because all I see is a huge obstacle in front of me?  The day Grace stood up there, she missed a pretty fun scooting race between me and Annalise.  Annalise whooped me and I may have even fallen a bit.  We laughed and Annalise was so proud.  Grace missed all of that because she was too focused on the fact that I hadn't done for her exactly like she thought I should.  She was so focused on the trees that she couldn't see the forest waiting at the bottom.  How many times do we miss a blessing, or get so sidetracked because all we can see are the trees?  When will we learn to trust that God has so much more waiting for us on the other side.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Me and Gideon....

I haven't blogged in awhile.  I have several posts that I have started but finishing seems to be the problem!  However, after church yesterday morning I just couldn't get the thought out of my head that I am Gideon.  We did a study a couple of years ago on Gideon by Priscilla Shirer and it was great.  If you haven't done that one before, I would highly recommend it.  Gideon is not one of the people from the Bible I knew too much about.  However, the way God used him is amazing.

A quick overview of Gideon is this:  An angel spoke to Gideon while he was under a wine press threshing wheat.  Now, when people would thresh wheat, they would typically do it on a hill or somewhere where the wind could help separate the good stuff from the bad stuff (chaff) but Gideon did it somewhere where he wouldn't be seen.  For that reason, he seems pretty timid or afraid because he was hiding.  Then, fast forward a bit, and God used Gideon, who we first found cowering under a wine press, to win the battle and defeat a huge army with only 300 men.  There is a LOT more to the story, but that's the long and the short of it.  You can freshen up on the story in Judges.

So back to me being Gideon.  I have always heard and understood that God can use very normal people in big ways.  I have also always understood that God can turn our weakness into His strength. Like with Gideon.....Gideon wasn't a brave solider.  He wasn't even brave.  He was an average guy who hid to do his work!  He would have probably been last on the list to pick for a battle, let alone the pick to lead the battle.  One of the reasons God kept whittling down his army was because God wanted it to be so obvious that He was the one who won the battle and it couldn't have been due to mans strength at all.

And that's when I realized.  I am a lot like Gideon.  Only mine has to do with children.  If you know me well, you know that I am not a huge kid person.  Now, stick with me.  I am not one of those people who sees a baby and needs to hold them.  Or gets baby fever every time I see someone have a new baby.  After we had Trey, we decided that because he was such a good baby we could probably handle one more.  We tossed around him being the only child but since he was so cute and smart we decided that just wasn't fair to the world....kidding....kinda.  Then we had Addison and she was cute and smart too.  And then she turned 2 and 3 and oh my goodness.  I was for sure done with the baby and toddler stage but was so happy for other people who were entering that stage.  I would take them food and go home happy.  Life was good.  I didn't judge when other people told me they wanted 4 or 5 kids but I made big plans around our house because we had our kids young and would be able to enjoy it later.  And so forth and so forth.  I valued my freedom, the fact that we had it planned financially, and Addison was at the age where we could get pedicures together on Saturdays.  Bliss.

Then God started slowly whittling away my comforts.  I became restless, uneasy and had no peace at all.  I sensed Him working in our hearts and leading us in a different direction.  I went to work full time in my running and did all I could, because what He was calling us to was not something I was interested in.  Don't get me wrong.....even back then I would've given a child the coat off my back and I did my due diligence with donations and contributing to causes financially, but God wanted more.  He actually wanted me to take in more kids.  He wanted my afternoons, and my nights and my occasional pedicures on Saturday (thankfully Addison and I haven't been asked to give those up entirely yet), He wanted my army.  And thankfully, I said yes.

I have said before that it's hard for me to hear how great we are and one reason it makes me so uncomfortable is because WE AREN'T!!  I have 4 kids and I still don't need to hold your baby.  I have 4 kids and I cry when school is out for snow.  Does that make me terrible?  I hope not.  What I hope it makes me is someone who can shout from the rooftop and mean it when I say.....God will use our weakness for His strength but we have to let Him.  I wouldn't go back to life pre-Anna and Grace for anything.  Why?  Well, for one thing I couldn't imagine life without them in it, but for another thing I can say life is better when God controls it.  There are still days I am so stressed and I think I need my security back but then I remember.....Faith pleases God.  Not my bank account.  Not my clean house.  Not my comfort.  Faith.

Gideon was scared and took down a huge army with 300 men.  I was the poster mom for 1-2 kids and God has called us to open our doors and be a voice for hundreds.  What is your weakness?  What are you afraid of?  God is waiting to make it your strength.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I love titling this post...FAQ's as if this blog is so popular because that's just funny to me.

I love getting questions.  With me, you shouldn't ask questions unless you are prepared for lengthly answers.  I don't look at questions as offensive (unless they are truly just offensive) but rather as an interest in my family and kids.  I also use questions as a way to educate you on the need and ways to get involved.  So again, ask at your own risk but don't be afraid to ask.

These are the most common questions I get about adopting the girls and their situation in general.  Another disclaimer is we are a pretty open book with Trey and Addison and will be with the girls as they get older.  They will know they were adopted.  I also get that not everyone is like that and we totally respect that too.  I'm sure it's different if you adopt from birth or have different circumstances leading into adoption.

1.) When did you know you wanted to adopt?

Um...adopt?  Never really.  I had much different plans.  I was going to foster a ton of children, have all these little names and faces and one day look back on the hundreds of kids we came in contact with.  It was going to be my ideal picture of foster care.

Seriously, adoption wasn't on our radar and again it's different in the foster care world.  The goal was for the girls to go home with their birth mom until rights were terminated.  Then the plan (on DHS side) was for Grace to move in with her aunt.  Then at one point the plan was for the girls and brother to all move somewhere.  So, our heart and mind was guarded and we were going along with the plan.  Now, I can't say my prayers didn't reflect a mothers heart but I can truly say that it was always that God's will would be done and revealed and that throughout the plan, we would glorify God.  Even if they were both moved from us.

2.)  Do the girls have the same mother AND father.

As far as we know, yes.  I will say....they are so much alike.  They sound alike, Grace walks with her hands behind her back like Anna used to, they both yell NO at the top of their lungs the exact same way and so forth.  It's honestly funny to me how many times I get asked this question, but apparently that is high on the curiosity radar.

3.)  Why did they come into care?

This one is asked a lot and if you know me well enough, I have shared some of the specifics.  To be honest, J.O. and I didn't fully understand all of the details behind this until we received the disclosure packet before adoption.  Our parents have been given the full details in this packet and have seen it, but other than that we plan to keep some details to ourselves.  Annalise and Grace will know these details one day and particularly Annalise will have some tough choices to make on how much she wants to know and chooses to share.  The short of it is, birth mom was pregnant when Anna came into care so for awhile she hid out until after she had Grace.  It was a bad decision and bad decisions had been made for Anna but it was the only thing she knew to do.  It's truly amazing what having little to no support in life will do for you and what having the WRONG support will do.  She once told me she did something (that seems crazy) on the advice of a distant relative and she thought she was helping her kids by doing it.

I truly don't mind sharing parts of their stories and someone once put it this way....sharing their story keeps me sympathetic.  I can become so desensitized but once I share their story, I am reminded of how far they have both come.

4.)  Do they still see their brother?

Yes.  When in foster care, they had visits with him twice a month that we arranged and now it's just at our discretion.  Like with anything, life is busy and crazy but when there are opportunities to get together they do.  It was tricky at first, but now it's just one more piece to their story and we are praying for wisdom on how to navigate that part.

5.)  Will you still foster?

Who are you asking?  Me or J. O.?  Since he doesn't read this blog or have Facebook, I can say I am not sure.  We plan to remain open right now because we (I) know we still want to help out.  I want to do respite and especially be able to help our friends that have foster kids.  Eventually I would like to do emergency placements but for right now we are pretty maxed out on space.  When you have young kids, who really don't need to share a room, you have to get creative.  Our 4 bedroom house is now a makeshift 5 bedroom with plans of what to do about that in the future.  So basically, not sure.  I know this.....God has called us to be active in our community on behalf of these kids.  How that looks specifically I am not sure.  However, I have learned that when you truly follow Him, it will be revealed.  The easiest thing right now would be to close our home and move forward in this life of 6, but we do know that's not the right choice.  So, we will remain open, I will clean my home for DHS visits, we will do the CEU hours, and we will pray.

I think that's it right now.  I am sure there are more.  Oh like....will they all 4 go to private school?  Right now, our plan is to pick our favorite and send that one to private school and college.  Trey is in the running, so be looking for updates.

Seriously, no clue.  What I have learned is that it's okay to do different things for different kids.  I think that's reflective of what I have learned from the second our home opened.  My plan stops and His plan begins.  It might be confusing (to me) at times, but it's always revealed and it's always the best plan.