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!

Foster Parenting

I kind of surprised myself tonight. I started responding to a post on a friend’s page about being a foster parent. Admittedly, I was a little miffed with the person making a lot of argumentative comments because I felt like she was attacking foster parents, and homie don’t play that. As foster parents, we get enough shit flung at us all the time. This was an emotional response. As I typed, I felt it coming up from the deepest part of my heart and spewing out onto the keys. I didn’t mean to hijack my friend’s post…but I kind of did. Sorry, Sharla. I guess I’m surprised by the feeling and the clarity that I shared here, but I’m not sure why. It went a little something like this…

It sounds like you have been victimized by a lot of awful circumstance during your adolescent years, which can be so traumatic at a young age and extremely triggering in adulthood. I respect your position as coming from a child broken by the system and as an adult to see the injustice that can happen to people who can’t protect themselves. Shame on the people who knowingly commit wrong-doing to families. It is truly heartbreaking to see a family disbanded and I’m sorry that happened to you.

However, with all of that said, I believe you are taking an opinion on this matter that has gone deeper than just the message of this article. “I’m saying that total removal from any knowledge or presence of an addicted parent is an unhealthy move…” Am I confused about what this statement means? Are you saying it is better to leave the kids in care of an addict? If yes, what makes a person support showing children what a life of addiction is like?

As a foster mom, I have heard time and time again about the struggles of the system, what it does to individuals, families, and the state of our community. Foster care is always a last resort. The State of Washington doesn’t remove children from the home as easily as it sounds like you have experienced. I’m not saying you’re not being truthful, but we know a different system.

If I am understanding things from your perspective, you believe the family unit should stay together come what may. For the most part, I support this, but not when it endangers the life and future of the child. Breaking up a family is not ideal, in fact, it’s the worst nightmare of many. The heartache of being separated without control, without understanding, and with great sadness are all emotions that kids and parents endure, and it’s not fair.

But what also isn’t fair is when a child isn’t given the same opportunities as the next one. What’s not fair is when a parent retains custody of a child they don’t want. What’s not fair is to completely overwhelm state workers to the point that they cannot give focused attention on their caseload, and therefore, apply the least bit of time and attention to ensure everyone’s needs will be met once reunification happens. Not just for the child, but for the parents, too. Setting the entire family up for success rather than failure should be the logical thing to do, yet I am in the middle of fighting my state workers right now. I am imploring them, please, merge this family back together. Please, don’t throw them all in the dryer together at the same time and watch them collide and tumble only to see what shakes out.

For as many bad bio parents that are out there, there’s just as many bad foster homes. That is an unarguable truth, but some of us, people like my husband and I, we fight. Hard. Not just for the girls, but for the family unit because we believe that if we love the girls the best we can and do whatever is necessary to support their mom, and fight for the reunification process to go how it should and not how the state would like for it to, (which is to throw them all in at once – an awful idea for reasons I can clarify later, if necessary) they’ll all be better off. And not just for a few months, but for the rest of their lives. We love our girls so much that we have jumped in with both feet to be supportive when we didn’t and perhaps shouldn’t have, but we did it because we knew that all of our efforts to advocate for the girls would carry into advocacy for the betterment of the family.

Foster parenting gives a lot of people a bad taste in their mouth. The system is broken, the families are broken, hearts are broken. This isn’t just happening to the bio family, this is also happening to the foster family. We chose not to just open our door, we chose to open our hearts. We chose to be advocates instead of sitting back and watching more injustice for this family. We chose to do more than necessary because we know that going the extra mile will only strength relationships. And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, they will leave our house and our family (temporary or not) will be broken. Our hearts will be broken. Our system will still be broken. And then the phone will ring and another family will need our help to watch over their children while they try to make arrangements for a better life. Once again, we will open not just our door, but our hearts as well and I hope that you can appreciate that our side of things experiences just as much heartache as yours might.

I know Washington CPS has a program that does in-home services for families that are struggling through a variety of situations such as drugs, DV, etc., so I’m grateful that this is the case, because, honestly, there are just too many kids in foster care, not enough beds, and not enough people being held responsible. In the last 7 months of our lives, we have learned far too much about how this system is broken. We have been angered by the difference in treatment their mom gets versus what their dad gets. It seems like whomever has the better attorney gets the better judgement. It’s wrong. The better attorney doesn’t prove the better parent. We need to be closely examining the family unit, what the parent did to lose custody, and what can be done to make sure that reunification is healthy for everyone. Yet, we watch so many families fall by the wayside. When I think about it, my heart emotionally cannot take it. To think of it now just makes me cry.

I’m watching our system want to rush the family back together right now because it has been open for too long and they want to close it out. It’s not just. Mitch and I got into foster care for a variety of reasons, but one of them was because we truly wanted to help families. We come from limited means, so we are not able to financially support families, charities, etc. in the ways that our hearts want to, but we do what we can and this is the best we can do right now.

It’s tough to parent someone else’s children. For as much as the bio parents are scrutinized and under the microscope, judged, blamed, insulted, and not taken seriously, the same thing happens to the foster parents. It sucks, but this is a choice. We choose to do this because we believe that we should. We won’t get rich in coin but rich in love and after it has been 10, 20, 30+ years of dragging our heels in the mud, kicking and screaming for families to have the treatment they deserve, then I will say, “We have done all we can. Time to move onto something else.”

By far, this has been the most emotional, difficult, sad, angry, beautiful, loving, hilarious 7 months of my life, so far. When I look at those babies asleep in their beds at night, I am so deeply aware of how great my love for them is and I am reminded every day that they are not mine. That they belong at home, with their mom and sister, so they can be a family again. For them to stay with us permanently would mean that their bio family fell apart and as difficult as it is to grasp and imagine our lives without these littles, it is far more difficult to accept any responsibility for breaking up a family. So we will keep them for the short term but we will love them forever.

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

xo,

a

It’s getting real…

I’m feeling particularly emotional tonight. As each day passes, the gifts, love, and support continue to roll in for the adventure of becoming foster to (as-soon-as-the-opportunity-presents-itself) adopt parents. I can’t even begin to tell you what it has been like around this house. Just a few months ago, we moved into our first home and the joy has been abundant ever since. It’s rare that a week goes by that we don’t have visitors. There always seems to be some sort of party happening here and we love nothing more than sharing our home.

Now that we have decided to share our home with a baby, it’s like someone has turned on a magical light and the bulb is ever glowing and comes with a beautiful shine. I think that switch was flipped on inside of our hearts since day one, but what surprises me is how many other people have flipped that switch with and for us. They, too, have been on this journey almost just as much as we have. It’s a feeling we can’t describe; a love and appreciation for people that we have never experienced; a clarity for the village that is being built.

To sit in that room rocking in the chair we will rock our babies in and knowing that it will soon be filled with baby sounds (and smells) gives us the greatest burst of joy in our hearts. I can’t go in that room without a great big smile. Knowing that baby after baby will find the refuge their little lives are seeking and knowing that we get the extraordinary opportunity to be the people who love that baby in their most difficult of times, is an enormous blessing that we don’t take lightly.

I catch myself getting scared sometimes, usually daily. “What if I lose my baby again?” Then I realize that I’m not with child and somehow it doesn’t make me feel better. But just because the child isn’t growing in my body doesn’t mean it’s not growing in our hearts. We chose this and I believe that the perfect babies will be chosen to live with us, even if only for a short while.

Our next baby shower is this Saturday at 1:00. We are so excited to see everyone and we are so grateful that we have the best friends and family to do these things for us. The baby room is stocked full of the big things and some of the little things. I know that when it’s showtime, that baby will want for nothing. I realized that there are some babies that don’t start out in life with all of the treasures sprinkled throughout the baby room. I’m surprised it took me so long to realize that fact. I guess I never got to the part with my own babies when I would plan a baby room so I never gave it much thought.

A few days ago, I was putting baby furniture together, washing baby clothes in Dreft, and cooing over everything. Mitch told me I was nesting! I didn’t realize that was a thing for foster parents, but I confirmed with my trusty mommy friend that it is and my heart swelled with pride. “I’m nesting!”  I thought to myself and I beamed with sunshine from my soul. “I’ve never had the chance to nest!” It was such a warm gift to be told that and it totally put me on cloud 9.

I’m excited to see how this changes me/us. I already see and feel the changes, the thought processes, the priorities, and so on, but it can’t possibly compare to when our first little nugget comes through the door. The baby smells. The baby sounds. To watch their eyes, nose, ears, arms, legs, and everything else squirming as if they are trying to tap dance their way into our hearts will be like nothing we have ever imagined.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of my dad and how angry I am a lot during this process. I keep thinking of my godfather that passed away in November, too. I think Troy would have been so happy for us. I can see his smile through the clouds and I feel the warmth of his hugs. I so wish he was here to teach our kids about the important things in life like music and the art of having a good time. Troy was always so good about both of those things. God, I do miss him dearly. I think of Mitch’s mom, Rachel, and how I never got to meet her and how our kids won’t either. It makes me really sad to know that the biggest influence in my husband’s life isn’t here, but I know she’s an angel, along with Troy, and is watching over us and our babies.

I’m thankful for my mom, Mitch’s dad and his second mom, Mitch’s huge family, our friends, and my brother and Janet. I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise children and that bell couldn’t ring any clearer than it is right now. I know there will be lots of times when I will want to figure it out myself and do things on my own. I know that Mitch will need that too. All I ask is that if we don’t accept help every time you offer it, it’s only because just as these babies are developing into the person they will be, we are developing into the parents that we will be. Don’t take it personally. We’re just bonding with our baby.

All of our dreams are coming true. It has taken us over a decade and it has been after a lot of hard work, hard times, and hard lessons. We are so thankful for every struggle we have been through. It has prepared us for this upcoming event. By this time next month, we will be parents. What a priceless gift! Thank you for your love and support!

xo,
A

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