The Beginning of the End

I know that title sounds so dramatic but it is. By next weekend at this time, our girls will be happily giggling and playing in their new permanent home – their mom’s home. We’re having a hard time processing this idea. Seems like the last few days, today especially, has been difficult to understand. We have a lot of emotions going on right now and they’re all sort of spinning around at the same time; each one contradicting the other. It’s confusing because you’re not really sure which one you should latch onto and follow.

I guess I’m just feeling sad for us. For my mom. For our friends and family. I’m fine one minute, in tears the next. I’ll probably cry 5 different times just writing this post. When I think back on all of the wonderful, pivotal memories we’ve made together my heart swells with pride, happiness, and accomplishment. And then I retreat and deflate a little (or a lot) at the impact their departure is and will have on our hearts. All of our hearts. What makes me feel really good (in a weird way) is when people on Facebook tell us that they’ll miss our girls too. To me, this means we have done a good job being transparent in our struggles and generous with our joy. To know that others have learned from, grown from, and considered this journey because of what we have shared makes us feel like we did an OK job at something we knew nothing about.

The other struggle is this: how long do we wait? We’ve been asked this question umpteen million times. Hell, we’ve asked ourselves umpteen million times too. How long is long enough? Don’t wait too long or else you’ll lose spots at the great daycare you’ve found. Don’t take more kids in too soon so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to fill a void. (For the record, no child will ever fill another child’s void.) Don’t say no for too long, you don’t want to miss the child that would have been perfect for your home. All of those things run through our minds about 20 times an hour. It’s hard to know how long we wait…or if we wait at all. We can see the plusses and minuses of each side. And as soon as we come up with a definite game plan, here comes the next little that’s sleeping in a hotel room with a social worker until the right home comes along. Now if that isn’t tragedy, I don’t know what is.

Over the last week there’s been an influx of kids coming into care. When they start using the words, “Emergency Care” or something like that, you know it’s because nobody else is willing/able/whatever to take in the child for whatever reason. I’ve lost track now at the number of kids that are in dire need for a place this weekend alone. The clothes on their backs, empty bellies, and broken hearts is all they come with sometimes. “Here! Our door is wide open! Let them all come in!” our hearts exclaim. Logically, we try to stay reserved as our hearts break when we read how sweet these kids are and how their small but significant lives are being shaken up like a martini.

We’re scared. We don’t know what the right thing to do is. We thought for sure we were going to take a break but we just look at each other and say the same thing at the same time. “As broken hearted as we are, there’s no way in hell I can let a kid have nowhere to go. We’ll do it. We’ll welcome them in.” 

Keep in mind, this is still new to us. There have been a lot of “firsts” since we got our girls in June and now this is the first goodbye. (Typing that was painful!) This is also the first time we’re having to figure out how much time we should or shouldn’t take. We won’t know what the right answer is until we do or we don’t. We’ve got a line of people 20 miles long ready and willing to give us their advice. Ready to tell us what we should do. I’ll kindly thank you for your well intentioned support. We know you’re looking out for what’s best for us. The truth is, only we can make this decision.

Do realize that we know this hurts you. You’ve read along, liked our posts and pictures, come to our parties to celebrate, supported us when we shed tears (more to come!), and sent gifts, cards, yourselves over to comfort us. You’ve engaged, believed, prayed, laughed, smiled, cared, cried, disagreed, and encouraged. You’ve felt our emotions as closely as you possibly could have without being us. Because you support us, because you follow us, you have been through the wringer, as well. It must be hard to watch people you care about be in pain over something that has been so beautiful. So maybe you aren’t ready for us to have more kids. Maybe this has been too hard for you. Trust me, we get where you’re coming from.

No promises is all I can promise at this point. I feel like we look so dumb saying we’ve got a plan and then realizing that our plan wasn’t a plan at all. Maybe it makes sense in our minds to feel like we’ve had some say in this so we’ll say we have a plan, but we now realize that in the world of foster care the plan can and likely will always change. For now, I know this much. The girls won’t be home until Monday night, they’ll have a visit with their mom on Wednesday and Thursday night, and sometime on Friday, probably in the morning, they’ll be returned home to her. And then that’s it. 

Here come the tears again. It’s weird. This is so final. All of it is coming to a close. Their sweet faces and voices not to be heard on a daily basis anymore. We’ll have to use the 1,000 pictures and videos we have saved to watch them. The hard part will be not being able to hug them. The hard part will be remembering the funny things like when Doc McStuffins comes on and they look at you and smile big, hold their hand out toward you and motion their little hand to come over, and they say, “Monn!” and you realize they’re saying “Come on and dance with me to the opening credits of this show I love so much!” So you get up and you dance around like a toddler and they laugh wildly. That’ll be hard; to not hear, see, or engage in that with them. It’ll be hard to walk into the room that was first theirs and know it’s not theirs anymore. Their room is somewhere else. This room will be someone else’s. A childless parent. 

I could keep going on but it’ll just get more depressing so I’ll stop here. Maybe you can see how we’re straddling both sides of the fence here. The one side where our hearts are broken and devastated by the loss of the twins; the other side where our hearts and broken and devastated by the lack of homes for kids in dire need of love, stability, and comfort. What do we do? What’s the right thing? Is there a wrong thing? I feel like we’re really being tested here, yet there was no way to study, so you don’t know how to pass or how to fail. I guess we can only do our best and wait for the results.

xo,

a

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It’s Off

I got up when I felt like it today. Went to Legendary to grab a few donuts. Used up the last of my Starbucks gift card. Dropped a donut off to my mom and helped her with an app on her phone. Came home to Mitch and sat casually on the recliner while we chatted and started to watch Lockup on Netflix. He decided he was still tired, so he went back to bed. I scrolled through Facebook and texted with Stephanie, who has been home since Thursday but I just realized that TODAY. Felt like a shitty friend. Wondered what else I’ve been missing/not realizing/forgetting lately. Probably a lot. Sigh.

It’s off. This whole morning. I should have gotten up when I had to. Chased the kids around to get them ready for their visit with their dad. Tried six times to get their coats on. Told them to keep their shoes on at least 27 times. Put on Doc McStuffins or Goldie and Bear to let them have a little bit of TV time to distract them from the fact that we were putting their shoes on…yet again. Fed them *only* a banana because that’s all they want and their dad feeds them when they get to their visit. Saw them off to the visit transporter at 8:30 and then promptly began to rush around to spend hours cleaning the house so it could inevitably be a mess again before days end. I should be running around doing errands with urgency so I can be home by about 2:20 when they get home. Or taking a nap and setting my alarm to be awake when they get home.

Instead of doing all of that I had a casual morning. It’s off. For almost a year now we’ve had to establish a routine for the sake of everyone’s sanity. For almost a year now we’ve had to build our life around their six days a week visit schedules. It’s hard to believe we’re just three weeks out from all of that. Hard to believe it has been almost a year. Hard to believe we crammed so many memories in. I remember when they got here. We pulled them out of their car seats and they weren’t even a little bit reluctant to wrap their tiny arms around our necks and hug us. Strangers. A new face. Again. We were an instant family.

Nay Nay had just learned to walk, so she was still pretty wobbly. Sassie was still crawling. We taught one how to stabilize her new ability and taught one how to walk. Taught them how to use a fork and spoon. Taught them how to brush their teeth. Worked with them on their words so their speech could be on track for their age group. Nurtured their interest in the potty. Allowed them to wash themselves in the bath tub. We watched them go from needing us to do everything for them to watching them try to do everything for themselves. Watched them outgrow an outfit that fit them fine the week before. Put their own coats and socks on. Buckle themselves into their booster seats. Use the remote. Open doors. (YIKES!)

When I posted this profound article earlier this morning on my Facebook page, I said that, “Being a foster parent means you’re willing to put everything on the line knowing you could lose it all.” It’s true. And for those of you out there that do this repeatedly, I applaud you. It’s pretty brave of you to know you’re going to use up every ounce of energy and love you have to give only to have it questioned, accused, misunderstood, and to feel unappreciated. Of course, that’s not always the case. I’m sure there are situations where it’s not as volatile, not as much of a tug of war as it has been, and not so jagged at times.

Don’t get me wrong, we get to be thankful for the time we had with our littles. The things we taught them without even realizing we were contributing in some small way to their development and happiness, but they weren’t the only ones learning. They were our teachers, too. They taught us how to parent, how to budget, how to make the most of our time, how to stay up for too many hours (ha!), how to fight for something no matter how slim the chances of success are, how to be a child advocate, how to love others in ways we never understood, how to be adaptable, and it doesn’t stop there. The lessons they teach us every day will continue on after they are gone not here anymore back with their mom go home…well, you know. Having a hard time saying and hearing all of those.

I know you’re reading this and it’s probably hard to know what to say. Some of you have expressed love and comfort so willingly, others have stayed silent, some have sent a text or a Facebook message. Some of you have told me something along the lines of, “I have been following your story…I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry that…” Please don’t apologize. You checking in on us is perfect. Saying you love us and we have been great is perfect. Saying you don’t know what to say is perfect. Saying, “This is what you signed up for…” or something like that is not helpful. This roller coaster of emotions is super hard to navigate. It’s all new to us, just like being parents was new to us. It’s weird when they aren’t here. It’s weird I won’t see them until Monday night. I cried on my way to work Friday morning knowing I wouldn’t see their sweet faces for what seemed like forever. Maybe that sounds silly/stupid/dramatic and maybe it is.

If I have learned one thing in the last few times that they’ve gone on overnight visits with their mom, it’s that I believe having kids gives me a life that I love. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. Before them, we were so casual, and we liked it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t enjoy a quick and rare chance to have a date, watch a movie together at home after the kids go to bed, or sleep in, but it’s different when they’re gone for a long time. And it’s different when you have a family. I want to be the snack mom at their sporting events. I want to join the PTA and put my fundraising skills to use again. I want to be the reason they look back on their childhood and smile. I want to let them be a child during their years of childhood, something in which is robbed of far too many kids. 

How soon after the girls leave can we continue to contribute to the well-being of a child and their family? That remains to be seen, but I know we want to do it. We are scared. I know how much this hurts us right now and I know it’ll hurt even more come “the day” that they…go. I’ll be honest, I really don’t know how our hearts and energy will be replenished after all of this, but I know it’ll happen. When it does, we’ll welcome him, her, them just as we welcomed the twins. We will love them, provide for them, encourage them, and fight for them because if not us, then who?

xo,

a

P.S. On April 2nd, we are participating in a bowling fundraiser for foster children in our area. We are $50 short of our required minimum and we need your help. Please donate any amount here. Thank you!

Sucks.

I am so tired of this emotional roller coaster. This has been the most difficult period of my life and a close second for Mitch’s life. The transition has been hard on the girls and on us. The emotion has been a lot to try to work through and I can feel myself crawling back inside my head to avoid working through my emotions, which was a coping mechanism for me for my entire life and only in the last year or so have I learned how not to do that. Still, I’m tired of crying myself to sleep. I’m tired of it consuming my mind. I’m tired of trying to mentally prepare for a house without them in it. I’m just tired.

When you walk in their room it smells like them. I think it’s a combination of mac n cheese, playdough, and sweet lavender lotion. Eventually, that smell will disappear, just as they have, and it’ll be excruciating to go in there for any reason whatsoever. If I just shut the door and never open it I’ll still know what was once on the other side of it. My counselor told me of a quote she recently read.

When your parents die you become an orphan. When your spouse dies you become a widow. There is no word for when your child dies and there’s no word for when you lose your foster children. People really don’t understand what that must be like for you. To love and fight for something so hard and then to let it go. 

I have tonight to spend with them and that’s about an hour, at best, until they go to bed. I won’t see them again until Monday night. This is going to suck. This last 3 weeks of them being with us will be hard because the visit schedule will be increased as they approach the day of return to their mom. I know everyone says to focus on loving them while we have them, and we do, but let me ask you something, and, please, answer this honestly. Think about your own children. Think about how much you love them. Would it be easy for you to watch them leave and never see them again? I’ve asked this question in a blog before, but it is worth asking again. I’m sure the answer is no, it wouldn’t be easy. “But this is what you signed up for…” WRONG. What I signed up for is to be an advocate, to give love, to share experiences, to teach, to be taught. And, yes, the end result is that they usually go home. I get that. I didn’t realize the heartbreak this would cause. Call me stupid if you want to, but put yourself in our shoes and then tell me if you’d want me to be that inconsiderate and diminishing of your feelings.

My counselor has warned me not to revert to my old behavior, which is to close up, say “I’m fine” and to not cry. I’ve gotta say, that seems like the best thing to do right now. I’m tired of feeling all of this emotion and thinking all of these thoughts. Enough about that…

 

xo,

a

You Are Always On My Mind

I feel like talking about my dad today.

I think I have to point out that he was a good provider when he wanted to be. We had nice things like music and movies, which is where Luke and I get much of our interest in it from, my mom always had a neck and fingers full of nice jewelry, we had nice vehicles, we lived in nice places. All of that being said, it came at a cost.

My dad was the kind of guy that was the life of the party. Funny, a good entertainer, and vivacious. People were drawn to him in every arena and he was always the one ready to party and have a good time. The problem was that he never knew the fine line between fun and fury. As grand as he was is as atrocious as he was. He was a Jekyll and Hyde of the drug and alcohol world. He was vicious.

My dad has had several wives and there are six of us kids all spread out between the marriages. Not a one of us has a close relationship with him. That wasn’t always the case, though, as I spent many of my fragile childhood and young adult years putting his needs in front of mine. I fostered his demand for acceptance, love, and encouragement well beyond the call of duty, especially for a child. I spent well over a decade trying my best to instill the love I had for him that I could only wish he had given me. It was never enough and for a long, long time it made me believe that I was not enough.

Experiencing rejection from a parent is an incomprehensible blow to a child of any age but as a young girl who desperately wanted her father’s approval, it completely broke my spirit. To watch him replace me with his insatiable thirst for a world I couldn’t understand, yet hated, shattered my expectations of ever having a normal relationship with him. Drugs became his new wife; alcohol became his new children; addiction his new career. His soul was a vagabond on the precipice of defeat more often than not. There has always been a good person underneath those layers of skin that hold his hatred, shame, and guilt like a cloak of failure.

I cringe when I hear the phrase, “I’m just going to sit this one out…” because that’s what he told me when I was two weeks away from my wedding day. After having spoken to him about the most important day of my life and making plans for over a year, he had promised me he’d be there. I foolishly believed that he would be but he wasn’t. It was then that I knew I could no longer allow my father to hurt me. I was about to start a new life as a married woman and I refused to allow the turmoil my dad poured all over my fragile heart for the first quarter century of my life affect my marriage. So when the phone rang the morning of my wedding day with the word “Dad” across the screen, I simply ignored the call and that was that. Easy? No. Necessary? Absolutely. Regretful? Never.

I had to realize that I have to be OK even if he is not. I have to make good choices even though he has chosen not to. I have to parent our kids in the ways that he chose not to. I refuse to be the insufficient source of love, protection, and acceptance that I was aching for as a child and sometimes even today. Walking away from a parent is not easy. The comments that have been made to me are bewildering. As if I hadn’t already thought about the repercussions of living a fatherless life would bring.

This hurts me every. single. day. Especially at times where I wish he was here, like right now as we struggle with the idea of sending our girls home to their mom. And speaking of mom’s…how unfair is it that my mom has had to shoulder the weight of two kids and two parents? Did they not create this family together? Why should she have to be the one left standing? It doesn’t seem fair. She has experienced her own trauma at the hands of a man who could be so loving, yet so damaging. What a toxic and confusing way to live. It was awful.

Today, I am free from my dad’s presence but I am not always free of his emotional stronghold. All I can do is keep moving forward and reminding myself of the exceptional reasons I choose to live and be happy. I wish I could have seen him do the same. What a sight he would have been.

xo,

a

Pushing Through 

Violent. Sexual. Predators. 
The interview offer came yesterday and the interview was today. I reluctantly accepted after misinterpreting my own boundaries. I was nervous all day yesterday, had nightmares last night, and was terrified today.

I went anyway.

The interview was out on McNeil Island where there used to be a prison. Technically, the prison is still there but it isn’t being used but if you go on the north side of the island you’ll find their compound that houses violent and non violent sexual offenders that have completed their prison time and are being further screened to be sure they are ready to return to civilized society.

Having been a sexual assault victim, I believe I had every right to feel terror about going. Nobody knows what I live with on a day to day basis and I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to. So why go? Trust me, the idea rolled around in the pit of my stomach since the original interview offer came through. Some said I should strongly consider not going, some couldn’t understand why I was scared to go. And then there was my opinion. The only opinion that mattered.

I went because if I let myself cower down then the men that did (or tried) to take advantage of my body still win. I went because I have a degree in Criminal Justice with a specialized focus in Violent Offenders that I spent years of late nights busting my ass to graduate with honors from. I went because it was my way of winning; my way of saying, “Fuck you for the anguish you have brought upon my body, mind, and spirit.” I went because it was my chance to have a say in things. I went because I owed myself the privilege of getting to tour an intriguing and secluded location that many wonder about but few understand.

I was a bit of a mess as I got to the dock to ride the boat. I fumbled through getting my visitors pass. My mouth was dry and my eyes bulged. I smoothed my hair about 10 trillion times. Finally, we set sail and it was a beautiful ride across the Puget Sound. I think it calmed me as I have always been drawn to the water. The more time I spent on the island, the more at ease I was. I needed to see what it was like in order to make an educated decision as to whether or not this was somewhere I would want to work every day. I needed to go for me.

xo,

a

Messy

I’m feeling exceptionally emotional about the girls today. I think this is probably because we got some information yesterday that leads us to believe they will be gone very soon. In fact, the wording was specifically “very soon.” I don’t have to tell you how extremely sad this is. I’m selfishly thinking of how this makes me feel right now instead of how exciting this must feel for their mom. Just let me get this out. I promise not to stay here but if I don’t say this here then it’ll stay inside, and I can’t let this fester.

I guess I’m worrying and it’s highly likely that it’s unnecessary. One of the hardest parts about being a foster parent for me has been the emotional triggers it brings from my childhood and young adulthood. These triggers are the reasons I have chronic PTSD in the first place. When I think of them going home, I’m scared for them to wonder why they don’t see us anymore. I’m afraid and physically cannot bear the idea of them wondering where we went and I couldn’t possibly pray any harder that they won’t wonder if they did something wrong and that’s why they don’t see us anymore. That very idea feels like it’s literally slowly killing me.

And why would such a thought be so triggering? Well, maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to be left behind by a parent. I know how it feels for a parent to be there one day and gone the next. I have felt the ache of wondering what I did wrong, why I wasn’t good enough to stick around for, and what I could have done differently to make them stay. These are all feelings I cannot even begin to imagine my girls knowing because I know that if they stayed here they’d never know what that is like, and now I worry if I will make them feel that way when they don’t live here anymore. I don’t want to be the person that fades in and out of their life, like my dad has done to me. It’s far too much of an emotional mountain to climb.

I thought, “Maybe if I show him I love him enough he will change and things will be okay.” No matter how much we love these girls, the fact is that they are not ours, they do not belong to us, they are not staying here. So the correlation between trying to love my dad enough to get him to stay and trying to love the girls enough to get them to stay is the same stabbing feeling of getting nowhere and treacherous sadness, and I have to constantly remind myself that neither of those situations were ones I had control of. Maybe that’s the hard part, knowing that I have no control, but only that I can control how to respond rather than how I react.

Watching a parent be an addict is hard, to say the least. Playing second fiddle to an addiction is not a feeling I would want anyone to know, but sadly, many can identify with. I am the first person to acknowledge that addiction is an illness. What may seem like a choice is actually a cry for help, a way to escape, a way to stay alive for people who have been through trauma but have no resources to properly heal. I get so outraged by the stigma of mental health in our world today. If we addressed it and made it accessible then maybe there would be less addiction, less loss, less trauma, and the cycle could break. We are not there yet, and frankly, we are so so late.

Even though it might not be true, I feel like my dad chose his addictions over me. It can sometimes feel like it’s easier to love the high than it is to love me. When you’re made to feel that way for so long it’s easy to start believing it and when you believe something so tragic, you start to push anyone away that loves you, compliments you, celebrates you. It feels like people are just saying nice things to be nice, not because they truly feel that way. Surely they can’t possibly love me, especially if they knew that I’m really not the person they think I am. Then one day someone asks you why you think so poorly of yourself and you can’t even figure out why because this is all you’ve known, because the way you were treated made you feel as if you weren’t good enough or important enough to love. It’s because the actions of one of the most influential people in your life that are supposed to love, support, care for, celebrate, and protect you is prioritizing their addiction or has disappeared without a trace instead of choosing you.

All of this all leads to not feeling like enough. Had I been a good enough daughter, maybe my dad would have stuck around. Had I been worth loving, maybe my 13 – 19 year old self wouldn’t have had to fight tooth and nail scouring the internet for 7 years to find him. Maybe if I love the girls enough they can stay. Maybe if I fight tooth and nail to advocate for their best interest they’ll get to stay. These two subjects are very closely connected and painfully triggering.

As hard as this all is, it’s good for me. I knew I needed to start going to counseling and I aligned it with the same timing as becoming a foster mom. I knew both would be hard, I knew both would be a lot of work, I knew that through these experiences I would be able to heal. I wanted to be able to love others in the ways I wished to be loved. I wanted to love myself the way some people in my life love me. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t do both of these things. While some may see this as me breaking, this is me healing. I am erupting from a pile of disappointment, shame, uselessness, heartbreak, and trauma. Everything is flying around in the air but it is no longer holding me underneath its heavy pile. It’s progress, not perfection, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

xo,

a

The Beginning of the End

2016 was probably one of the most yo-yo years on record for me. The best thing that happened to us was definitely our sweet girls. Another highlight was all the fun parties we had at our new home. We had “just because” parties and holiday related parties, we had Bunco parties, birthday parties, anniversary parties. All kinds of fun! I can’t wait for summer so we can start planning round two. 

On the flip side, I had (have) some major struggles and hurdles to overcome. I began to see a counselor in the spring and that’s when I was diagnosed with Chronic/Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I implore you to learn more about this by clicking here. Once the diagnosis came, my counselor and I began the long haul of work ahead of me to peel back the layers of the things in my past that still haunt me every. single. day. I learned that who I thought I was, how I thought I came off to others, how I thought I was acting/reacting, the emotions I thought I was feeling, and so on, weren’t that at all. As you might be able to imagine, this was and still is very difficult for me to process. When you go about your life a certain way for 30+ years you think you know yourself. I hadn’t a clue.

I had to reevaluate everything in my life which meant my job, my friends, relationships with my peers, and most difficult, myself. I had to reevaluate something I already have a hard time with – who I can trust, so only a select few knew what was going on. For those of you that I could truly trust to see me through some of the darkest days of my life, THANK YOU for your love, space, and understanding. I’m so profoundly proud of myself for the changes I have made thus far. I can feel my heart, my mind, my temperament, and my vision changing. It may not have been easy but it was necessary and as hard as some days can be for me, I know it won’t always be like that. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. 

I gave up New Years resolutions years ago, but I replaced it with being mindful of things I’d like to personally grow from or into. I guess it’s a resolution of sorts. Maybe I just don’t care for the word “resolution” so I use something else that makes me feel less committed. These mantras are a part of my daily life and year after year, as I continue to grow, those mantras mean something different than they did the year before.

Always be moving forward. Always strive to be compassionate. Always strive to be better than you were yesterday. Always strive to find peace in all things. 

I hope that 2017 brings you joy and love in every interaction. I hope you find peace and make the conscious effort to take good care of you. I wish you prosperity and personal growth in the year to come. To all of you here on Earth and to those no longer with us, Happy New Year. May we all find what we’re looking for. 

xo,

a