Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mexico Ready

Posted by Mandy at 4:23 PM 6 comments Links to this post
Today was a fantabulous day! My mom, sister, and I went to Little Rock for some shopping, food, and fun.. not necessarily in that order.

The husband and I set sail in about two weeks to go on a cruise, with tons of friends, to Mexico. One of my favorite parts of going on vacation, is it is so easy to convince my husband that "I need new clothes." I mean.. I am not going to be seen in Cozumel in last year's designs...

I thought I'd have some fun and show you guys a couple of the things I picked up. Nina at Momma Go Round is always showing off her cute finds when she goes shopping and it makes my day.. like I got to go with her! So.. here.. sharing the love!

I got two shirts to go with these SUPER cute off-white capris

T-shirt with double style gray/striped vest; dark trouser capris

Cute sun dress.. VERY light material.. perfect for the days on the boat!

Gray capris, flowy pink top, white shrug to go over it because the gray floral see-through design goes down the entire back. Cute to see a hint of back.. trashy to see all of it.. especially cuz I am NOT going braless. (you're welcome.)

Shoes.. oh yes... don't forget the shoes! I finally found the perfect pair of Sperry's for me... ahh.. true love.

I got the black heels to go with  my black cocktail dress for formal dinner night on board. Love! :)

What a nice day away.. I didn't think about DHS, losing any of "my" kids, or dealing with any of "my" kids for the duration. This should be mandatory for all mommies.




Friday, March 18, 2011

Not a Surprise I Wanted

Posted by Mandy at 12:10 PM 2 comments Links to this post
I got a phone call Wednesday evening that I'm still struggling with. To say it was unexpected is the understatement of the century.

One of our foster children, that we assumed would be here very-very long term, if not forever, is now apparently going back home at the end of the school year. As in a couple of months from now.

Normally this a thing to celebrate in foster care. When the parents see their wrongs, work hard to correct them, and get their children back - that's a reason to praise God! But, this case.. it's a reason to cry out to God, "What?! What are you doing?!!"

Things can always change. They can change DAILY. But, for reasons I can't discuss, this does seem like it is going to happen.

Selfishly my heart is broken. This is my child... more mine than her "real" families if you ask me based upon actions. For her - she'll be happy to go home. No doubt. Almost all children want to go home, no matter how horrible home is. I can completely understand that. But, what she doesn't see, that I do... my heart breaks for her. I worry for her. I worry for her siblings... all I can do is pray. I have to know that God has her and this situation no matter what the end result. Even if I cannot see it right now, if she goes home, there must be a plan for her there. I just pray it's a plan that she can handle, and a plan that doesn't send her down a very wrong road in life.

This... this is why people don't do foster care. But, let me tell you. Even in THIS current state - with a huge loss apparently right around the corner - I wouldn't trade a SINGLE day of the last year+ that we've had with her. I wouldn't swap knowing her for not having this pain. I wouldn't go back to living in my hole in the ground where I refused to see what children really go through, and what they need, and how I really can help... I can if I'm willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING. I'd do it all again.. and again.. and again. Just like the pain of childbirth to have of-the-body children, the pain of loss in foster care is horrendous, but the love you have from God, and the love you give, is worth it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feel Judged Much?

Posted by Mandy at 8:46 PM 9 comments Links to this post
I was reading a blog tonight and the writer was talking about how some people express that they think homeschooled children can't possibly be socialized... I would imagine anyone that truly felt that way had never met a family that homeschools.. or not more than one. ***side note - Doesn't it totally suck when someone only meets ONE family that lives sort of like yours and they base everyone from there on out by them? "Well they homeschooled and they had WEIRD kids... so that was a BAD idea!" Here's a novel idea - weird kids come from weird parents. Not always... but for real yo.... that's been my observation. (I'm sorry in advance, kids. You probably did get at least SOME of my genes..)

I also have read at least two other blogs in the past week or so that had similar feelings, with different issues. Of course, many were in relation to being judged b/c of being a foster family. Oh the things people think.. but even more shocking, the things they actually say.. OUT LOUD.. TO YOU. And I thought my filter was bad!

Here's my beef: how can anyone seriously judge families that are only doing what they feel God is leading them to do? If they act out of love for their children, then how can this be harmful if they're not extremist fruit-cakes?

And, if we all screw up our kids by living out of the box.. what's it to you? How does this affect you and your life? It doesn't. I answered that for ya!

I try not to do many posts like this b/c it's just a topic that is likely to stir people up, and my goal in blogging now is just to document our walk through this journey and hopefully be approachable to anyone that stumbles upon this randomness, that might be wondering about fostering or adopting themselves. Also, I have to say, I USUALLY don't feel judged. Sure, people stare, and even giggle sometimes, at our family size. I mean, we do look rather odd, I admit it! I'd stare too I'm sure. :) People make comments like "Well you've got your hands full" but I don't see it as rude or mean. I think they are just curious, interested, and want to find a way to talk to me. They'd probably be much more obnoxious to me if they knew that 3 of my 6 children have different fathers... making a grand total of 4 "baby's daddies" to contend with - and they'd judge me harshly without knowing the truth of our situation. They'd miss that we also have two other "baby's momma's" to deal with... and when I say "deal with".. that sounds bad I guess, but in my brain-dead state it's all I can come up with. Give me a break, I've got 6 kids. Seriously.

I have no idea what the point of this post is. I guess to say, hey, we all feel judged. Even if we do what "most people do", whatever that is, there will just always be things that we feel especially sensitive about. Even if someone says something, and they're not judging, it can come across that way because of our thin skin on the topic. For example - it would not be in your best interest to try to convince me that fostering children that have no home is going to hurt or corrupt my own children. My response will likely be, "Oh.. yeah.. well I obviously don't care about my kids that much so it doesn't concern me." Humph. How else should we answer that? I did once rattle off the stat about how 1 in 3 women in the USA have been sexually abused at some point, and that 1 out of 3 women are NOT sexually assaulting children or other people in a moment of lost cool... and I think I also said, "and i'm not an idiot.. I promise I know more about this than you.. because we LIVE this.. and you don't." I'm sure that person hates me... not my best day.

So - let's all take this time to just get it all out! Pour your heart out people! Whether it's judgement you feel from  homeschooling, public schooling, working, not working, spanking, not spanking, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, fostering, not fostering, or coloring your hair pink - let's have a hay day of it! Then, we can take a deep breath, feel better, and get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Everyone needs a vent day every now and then, right?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Step Forward - Ten Steps Back

Posted by Mandy at 12:25 PM 4 comments Links to this post
I've posted before about how much I hate visit days. My view of visits has become increasingly negative as the months have gone on. As the parents choose to do less and less to get their children back, refusing to even keep up with the progress they've already made, my desire to put my foot up somewhere I shouldn't seriously consider putting my foot increases ten-fold. I know I don't get it. I don't know where they are... and I am THANKFUL for that. But, gee whiz folks.. it ain't rocket science.

My Rad"ish" kid suffers immensely due to this back and forth game. Just when I feel we're making good progress in our attachment, a visit happens, and we start COMPLETELY over again. Or, more recently, a parent cancels a visit... last minute.. with no warning. Total heartbreak. Can I tell you how many pee accidents this poor kid had, both here and at school, due to that shock? The stress they feel must be so overwhelming... it is so difficult to be so helpless to control these situations when all I want to do is have healing.

Today, as I talked to a friend that just got a new foster placement in her home, that is likely to be a RADling as well, I thought back to where we were just a few months ago. We really have made progress, though living with this day to day, it can sometimes seem like we've been at a standstill this entire time.

For the MOST part - bathroom gross-ness has gone away. It is at least much less. It did resurface for a few days after one seriously stressful visit, but, we just had the child clean up the bathroom each time, and it quickly went away. Praise God... lemme tell ya.. you don't want the bathroom gross-ness issues.

Destruction of property has gotten much, much less. Scissors can be used again - WITH constant supervision. Same with writing utensils.

Lying - not as often, but one of the harder things to extinguish so far. Thankfully we're no longer thought of as the village idiots by this child and we've learned how to avoid triggering more lying. You know - because foster kids lie.

Our current struggles involve major whining, annoying chatter, over-reacting to perceived wrongs done, and mainly all sins of the mouth. (excluding cussing... thankful for that one.) We now have a "no one can talk until we get out of the van rule" for after school. It takes us about 5 minutes to get home after I pick everyone up, and those 5 minutes can be the most torturous minutes in our entire day if I allow one of the kids to make a single sound. Because that sound will be made over, and over, and over again. No matter how nicely the other kids ask, "Please, stop." I don't quite understand the thrill of driving everyone totally batty - but it evidently exists. Once home, we have mandatory outside playtime. I've managed to make this fun and not feel like a punishment - and it's really pushed us forward in our bonding as a new family.

Things aren't all nuts around here. We've made some larger strides recently in the attachment department with said Rad"ish" kid. I've figured out that the best time to try to bond with them is when we're outside, doing something like biking, throwing a ball, or even just running crazy. Burn off some frustration, have some fun, act like a fool in a good way... good stuff when you're often struggling to look at a child with eyes of love and not eyes of annoyance. Give it a go yourself!

Some days it can feel like we've come so far, and the very next, it can feel like day 1 all over again. I sat down today and thought about specific times I was so overwhelmed with these crazy behaviors in months past, and realized how we really have made it through a lot of muck already. If we can ever get past this child's guilt over being happy here, and starting to bond with us, I think we'll be in a great place. How hard it must be to feel like you're betraying your own mother... if you begin to love the one mothering you now.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Getting 6 Kids Ready for School - Without Drama

Posted by Mandy at 7:15 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Most of my readers probably don't "really" know me in real life. How I am daily, what stresses me out, and what I can and cannot tolerate. Let me give you a quick run-down. I despise whining, but even more than that, I HATE being late. It literally makes me feel physically ill if I'm 5 minutes late going anywhere. From getting to church on time, getting the kids to school, or even a casual lunch date with the girls.

Having 6 kids can definitely make being on time harder. Enter: my method of success. I'll stick with our morning "get to school on time so mom doesn't freak out" routine because I know that, for me, it has been the toughest to get right.


Typical wake up time favorite - make the baby laugh!

Before Bed - Set out clothes for EACH child where they can reach them

6:40am - wake up big kids. (Carter, Waylon, Madison, and Emily)
*All kids are expected to be FULLY dressed, socks and shoes included, before exiting their bedrooms.
While I finish cooking breakfast, the girls must brush their hair. Breakfast is held hostage. Until you are COMPLETELY dressed, you will not eat. It's amazing how quickly they hop to it around here!

7:00am - Breakfast is served. All kids must clean their spot at the table (or, from in front of the TV... whatever..) after they eat. Once the big kids are eating I wake up the two littles, Samuel and Dakota. Sam dresses himself, I dress Dakota - then they join the crew for breakfast.

7:20 - Brushing teeth time - this is also when I "do" the girls' hair. I'm getting fast at this now!

7:30 - Gather your stuff (that I line up in the playroom each night against the wall by the garage door) - get in the van - time to go.

This is seriously how our mornings typically go. I don't nag. I don't demand. Madison has almost been left at home because she is my S-L-O-W-E-S-T child. My rule is if you're not in the van at 7:30, then you will wait at home and I will come back and pick you up and take you to school AFTER I've dropped off everyone else. I refuse to let one kid make the entire crew late. I'm thankful that I have the luxury of not having to be at work at 8am so I can pull this off. Never had to do it... I think I do what I say I'll do enough that they believe my threats. They know their mom is a bit off her rocker...

Sometimes Dakota is taking his breakfast in the van.. he's my slowest eater and the one that will tantrum if I try to do the "Here, you can finish them when we get back home in 10 minutes.." talk. What's a few more crumbs in the van, right?

TV is a luxury in the mornings. If they are being too slow, it goes off. Otherwise, I do let them watch cartoons. Can I be for real and say it just makes mornings more relaxing and enjoyable for ALL of us? Yes, I'm "that" mom... and I was the same way when I just had 3 kids. I fully admit to being as lazy as possible - when possible. So there.

This is what works for me! As long as I'm prepared and organized BEFORE I wake the kids up, things run smoothly. What's the hardest "getting ready" time in your house?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"He's Not Going to Want to Go Home..."

Posted by Mandy at 11:30 AM 7 comments Links to this post
Yesterday we had what's known as a "drop in visit." Honestly, those are the only visits we seem to ever get from the caseworkers, and that's fine... they have been so wonderful to us! The goal of these visits is for them to see how your house looks without it being prepared for a visit - and to see how the kids look randomly throughout the month. I was VERY excited that I had just cleaned my kitchen... as in just finished wiping the counters and starting the dishwasher when they knocked on the door. Thanks for that prompt, God!

During their check-ins they like to make sure all of the medicines are still locked away, that the smoke detectors are working, and that we still have the bedrooms how they are supposed to be. They also spend time with the children, talking with them and observing them in our home. It sounds very uptight when I write it out, but we laugh and chit-chat the entire time. It's amazing how some of the DHS staff becomes like your extended family!

Little Brother (now 22 months old) followed me around the whole time whining to be held. I'd oblige him and scoop him up, sensing that seeing the caseworkers brings up some uncomfortable feelings for him. I have to assume he is worrying, however a toddler his age would worry, that they might be there to take him away again.

The workers giggled at his behavior and saw his attachment to me and joked, "Uh oh.. that little guy isn't going to want to go home.."



I smiled, but inside I died just a little bit. I often worry about how he'll feel when/if he goes back. Now that he's in a safe, loving home... will it devastate him to leave? I know these are normal fears, normal worries, and common amongst foster parents. Many ask me how I deal with those thoughts. Honestly, I push them out of my mind. I can't go there. I tend to try to stick with the Bible's warning to basically worry only about today, because it has enough worries of its own.

So, for TODAY all of "my" kids are safe, cared for, loved, and secure. For TODAY God is calling us to be this family together. For TODAY I will rest in ease.. knowing that only one controls any of our fates. Only one chooses if any of these 6 children will remain in our care as each hour passes. As a good friend, Amy, once told me (and she is a fellow foster parent), "God never guarantees another day with your own children... don't let fear of loss stop you from parenting others who need you." Wise words...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hello World!

Posted by Mandy at 6:25 AM 2 comments Links to this post
I'm sorry for my blogging absence... I've been trapped under endless loads of laundry. I'm seeing why families with this many kids often have two sets of washers and dryers. Mental note for the future...

There has been so much going on lately - and yet nothing has really changed. We are still Clayton and Mandy plus 6, but that may soon change. One of our foster boy's biological father's has surfaced and wants custody - we'll see what the court decides next month. My feelings on him possibly leaving range wildly. One day I think, "Dear God if they're going to do it, do it now!" because of his "after-visits" behavior. When things calm down, and he's regulated again, I could sit and cry at the thought of him not being here, being separated from his brother... and put into ANOTHER new school. 3 schools in your kindergarten year does not seem like a great start. I'm often finding myself thankful that I have zero control over any of it. I would not want to be put into that spot to make a decision as to what's in "the best interest" of a child.

Other than "typical" DHS stuff, upcoming events for us include tons of baseball and dance stuff. Dance pictures are this coming weekend - I've done nothing to get Madison's costume ready for that. Nice. Everyone that wants to play baseball is now registered except for Emily. Working on that.

I'm really excited about ball season! It's such an "All American" sport, and seeing the same families on the fields year after year just makes small town living what it should be. Don't get me wrong, the last two weeks I always feel like "Seriously.. we have 4 more games?!" because I'm ready for the season to end before the season is ready to end, but maybe this year will be different... yeah.... sure...

On that note - I do want to share a tidbit of info that an older gentleman gave to me when my first two started playing ball. I was talking about the "stress" of getting ready and going here and there and everywhere. How I missed our lazy afternoons at home. His words have stuck with me:

"We always used sports as family time. It is so much fun if parents just see it as fun.. the kids won't get stressed if you don't. We had some of the best laughs traveling to and from games.. eating out afterwards.. getting slushies from the concession stand. It was some of the best memories we ever made."

I want THAT for us, too! Last year I made the decision to never let my kids see any stress on my face in regards to their activities. It made the soccer and baseball season so enjoyable! I still look back on last year as such a wonderful time. This year we'll have 3 more kids to share those memories with. Memories their own families never made, and likely never will even if they return home. What an honor!! When they hear the clank of a baseball against a bat in the future, they will likely think of being with the Moss family. When they smell hot dogs and popcorn on a summer day, they might just remember the fun we all had at the ball field.

That's what I hope they remember - THE FUN. Not that mom and dad were always stressed out about it.  Not that we fussed about "having" to go here or there. Just that Mom and Dad were ALWAYS at our games. They ALWAYS cheered for us. And we ALWAYS got to get a lollipop to eat on the way home... even though Mom hates candy in the van...

Monday, February 07, 2011

And Now We've Entered the "Angry" Phase

Posted by Mandy at 8:32 AM 6 comments Links to this post
I have been patting myself on the back over the past couple of months that I've not let anger and judgement grip me when it comes to my foster children's parents.. well... at least where one case is concerned.

Yesterday that changed - quickly and drastically.

I wish I could vent on here about what happened, but I can't. I wish I could teleport to a location far away and strangle reality into a parent's head right now, but I can't. I wish I could understand how your children could ever not be the MOST important thing in your life, but I can't. I wish I could take pain away from a child that's hurting, scared, and uncertain of what's to come because of "big people's" bad choices, but I can't. I wish I could make this all better... all go away... but I can't.

I found myself in a puddle of tears on my bedroom floor this morning.. just crying out to God. "Why?!!" Begging for him to open the eyes of those that need it. Anger has a hold of me towards bio-parents and their recent decisions... we're working SO HARD on our end to heal and help these kids, to support their family reuniting, and I feel as though the other parties involved are not. And it makes me mad. It makes me hurt for the children. It makes me scared about the future and what will happen.

I am beyond rooting for the parents right now. I can't lift myself up to that place in this moment. I just want THEM to have to see their children cry for them. I want THEM to have to answer these awful questions. I want THEM to take ownership for the mess they've created.

Today I will pray, and I will know that many of you and my real-life friends have been in this place more times than you can count. How can people be so blind to the truth? I just cannot understand...

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What Doubling My Kids in a Month has Taught Me

Posted by Mandy at 11:53 AM 4 comments Links to this post
Going from 3 kids, to 6 kids, in a matter of a month has taught me a lot in a hurry. Learn or go nuts - one or the other will happen without a doubt.

I've called and harassed  asked all of my "bigger than normal family" friends what their tips and tricks are since my house suddenly filled up. I've learned a few things and I thought I'd share 'em with you. In case any of you are as completely, totally, and ridiculously insane as I am and want to ever parent this many children.. or more.

Dishes - My good friend Brandy said that her kids all have a color of dishes that belong to them. That way, they can use the same cup during the day and not mess up 3 (or 10 in some of my kids' cases..). Also, if "someone" forgets to clear their spot at the table after meals... they're instantly found out.

I haven't gone out to purchase color-coded dishes, but I have been using the "one cup a day" rule. Wow.. what a difference! I did not realize how many cups we were running through, but it's cut down drastically. Just think, if everyone in our house just used 2 cups a day - that would be 16 cups in ONE DAY. Ay-Yi-Yi!

Laundry - Many of my large family friends have said they keep clothing to a minimal. Some have a rule of "you have 'x' amount of space for your clothes.. if you have more clothes than can fit there - you have too many.

I do think this is a smart rule. But.. well... umm... I just like to buy clothes! Even with this many kids, as old as they all are, I still see them as real-life dolls. Especially my girls. How fun is it to dress up your girls?! So our bows and frills have mostly turned into jeans and sneakers but thankfully Sketchers invented Twinkle Toes and "girly moms" like me everywhere rejoiced! 

They are so stinkin' cute!


So, I've come up with different rules that work for me and my shop-a-holic ways.

We have two kids per bedroom. Each bedroom has its own LARGE hamper. When that hamper is full, I just take the whole thing to the laundry room and in it goes. I don't separate anymore. I'll pick one day every now and then and bleach white if they need it, but for daily purposes, it all goes together. It's super easy to take them from the dryer and right into the room they came from for putting it away. Towels have their own hampers in the bathrooms. Bathrooms have hooks.. each child is expected to use their same towel and hang it up at least 2 or 3 times.

And, I do laundry EVERY day. I've always done laundry every day since having 3 kids... but now I do a few loads EVERY day. It is just part of my daily routine now and doesn't seem as hard as it sounds. It saves me from having "Oh no we don't have any towels, socks, or jeans!" panic attack moments.

Food

This is where the going gets tough. I cannot believe how much food we're going through! I refuse to back down from my "we WILL eat healthy" rules... so we're just spending more right now. Ugh...

I'm thinking over meals and seeing how I can make healthy options that don't cost a fortune. For example, last night we had chicken marinated in Italian dressing (cooked in pan with a bit of non-stick spray, no oil, nothing.) with brown rice (from the box, that you have to cook for 35 minutes instead of my normal "boil in a bag" kind.) and green beans.

Fed all of us, was healthy, and didn't cost much! Hooray! If you have healthy meal options for a LARGE family that won't break the bank, PLEASE send them my way!

I've also gotten really strict on "random eating." With just 3 kids I didn't mind if they grabbed snacks whenever they wanted... but that has come to a sudden halt. We have 3 meals, and two snacks, at scheduled times. At first this felt way too rigid... I hated doing it. Now it's just normal! We're actually saving a lot of money by cutting down on them just grazing, and they're eating meals much better. Duh.

These are just a few of the things I've learned so far. There are many more but how long does one blog post really need to be? Share your tips and tricks with me! I could use them!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Prolife Church?

Posted by Mandy at 1:52 PM 4 comments Links to this post
Today I have had a mixture of joy and a mixture of sadness as I see Facebook swamped with prolife messages.. apparently it's prolife "day"... sorry, I'm not sure of the exact title.

Pastor's braved up in many churches today and spoke prolife messages. People likely churned in their seats... some wanting to stand up and applaud, some wanting to hide, some seething in anger. Abortion is one of those topics... few things stir people up like that word.

I have always been pro-life, and I would hope my actual life would show that. From a teen mom that chose life to a mom that now takes in children with no where else to go... I guess you could say we're a pro-life family.

Being "in the trenches" as it would be, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the church. Not my church.. not your church.. but the church as in "us."

We beat our Bibles and blog and Facebook and yell from picket lines that "abortion is a sin!" "It's MURDER!" "You'll go to hell!" "It's a CHILD not a CHOICE!"

Do I believe abortion is a sin? Yes. Do I believe an unborn baby is a "real" baby? Absolutely. Do I believe this method of screaming is helpful at all? No.

The people that already are pro-life will rally around you.. they'll comment on your blog posts and say "here here!" and they'll like your status updates... so will I. ;) The truth is... it doesn't change anything. Why? Because that's the truth.. words can be powerful, they can call us to action.. but without action.. NOTHING ever changes.

Most studies I've found say 1 in 50 children in America are homeless. IN AMERICA. In 2008 one study said there were 123,000 orphans IN AMERICA. Let's not forget how many more children in other countries are without food, shelter, and families. Living alone.... dying of starvation. Dying of AIDS. Dying from dehydration and illness. Suffering horrendously because someone chose life...

The sad truth is, for many people, there are worse things than death. I know this won't be a popular statement... I'm prepared for that, but until we as Christians stop telling everyone how prolife we are, and start LIVING how prolife we are... then there will always be abortion. There will always be unloved and unwanted babies ending up in dumpsters. There will always be children that spend years and years in foster care, never being adopted. How does a child age out of the system? How does an infant come into foster care IN AMERICA and never get adopted? How can we scream how much we LOVE children.. how MEANINGFUL their lives are to us and "should be to others" when we do NOTHING. Nothing. nothing.

I pray that today this prolife message will hit someone. I pray it will open someone's eyes. Being prolife isn't a political position. It isn't an emotion. It isn't a belief. It's a way of life. How can your life SHOW you support unborn babies, their struggling mothers, and their hopeless situation? There are ways that don't include fostering or adopting... but you have to find them.

Are you really prolife? Show it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So, What's One More?

Posted by Mandy at 12:37 PM 7 comments Links to this post
Five kids... piece of cake. Let's go with SIX!

Yeah, go ahead and commence with thinking we're nuts, or we must be ruining our bio kids, or whatevah. That's just fine b/c we are THRILLED!

I found out today that after months of phone calls to attorneys, case workers, and waiting for staffing after staffing to see what would happen, Emily is moving in with us!

A quick update for those unaware of this situation - We have been involved with Emily through the "Family Friend" program through the Arkansas Baptist Children's Home here in our town. She's is a DHS foster child that lives there. We've had her over to stay weeks at a time, weekends, holidays, etc for over a year. Now, she's getting to come live with us as a foster placement!!

Emily's case is private - but this is great for her. It was time to get her into a family and out of the group home. Group homes are amazing, yet so so sad that we need them... but they can never be a real family. House parents change, girls come and go... only Emily is the same one there now as when she first arrived. How is that different from being bounced from foster home to foster home?

Today we rejoice in God's provision for his children!!!! This seemed impossible to me a month ago. Road block after road block. I suppose God needed this to seem impossible so that I would absolutely give him all of the glory for this - I am totally in awe!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Promise, I am NOT 19...

Posted by Mandy at 7:50 AM 1 comments Links to this post
Some of you already know that one of my part-time jobs is that I am a reporter for our local online news website: Monticello Live. I have been doing this since July of 2010.

This week is what I refer to as "week-o-meetings" where I go and sit in on numerous school board meetings, city council meetings, quorum court meetings.. you get the idea.

So far I've already hit up two separate school board meetings... and at BOTH of them, I was asked if I was a college student. Yes... seriously. By the people that are running the meetings. One of which I'm quite certain I've seen at no fewer than 4 meetings... in a row. What college student has that little to do on a Tuesday night?

I am still young... depending upon how old you are... but to be mistaken for a 19yr old? (and yes, that's the age I was mistaken to be.) Wow... Apparently having TONS of children is the key to keeping your youth!

Not that I'm complaining about supposedly still having my baby face - but it makes me wonder if anyone really takes me seriously, if they all are silently assuming I'm there by force from a professor?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Grief I Hate Visits

Posted by Mandy at 9:00 AM 2 comments Links to this post

The boys have a once a week visit with their mom... and I'm very glad of that for MANY reasons. All of which would be completely obvious and not worth me writing out.

If I could be SUPER selfish here.. and just vent a bit.. I also completely hate the once a week visits. Why? Well... let me explain.

The day before visits, Big Brother knows is "the day before visits." This sends his brain into Never-Never Land where he begins acting out... lying, sneaking, wildness, and some defiance. None of these things are ever "serious" but when you get lied to about little things oh... 10 times in 2 hours... it becomes a large deal. The day of, amazingly, is usually a great day for us. Even after... we have some sadness, but nothing like I expected in the beginning. The day after... holy cow. Let's just say I'm honestly dreading after-school time today because yesterday was "the day."

It always feels like one step forward, two steps back. As the visit day is farther behind us, things get back to normal. Then, BAM.. here we go again.

I would never want to change the set up... not that I could anyway... I think it's important for them to see their mother as much as possible, especially Little Brother... but I just wish I knew a way to make this easier for me. I don't know how to calm him down, to keep the misbehavior at a minimal during the build-up. I feel like I'm constantly putting him through mental detox or something.

Any been there, done that advice? Is there a way to avoid this up and down of behavior?

Something that I haven't been very good at, that I know traumatized kids need, is to ask "how were you feeling when you did "that"?" to him after an event. I hate it when I realize way after the fact that I keep doing total foster-mom fails... I know the longer it takes me to get this stuff right - the harder it will be for all of us.

Some days I feel so victorious.. like "Yes! We finally got THAT behind us!" just to get smacked with something new... one really hard day... a new behavior that blows my mind... or my own mind going blank when I catch him in a lie or doing something that he knows he shouldn't.

I don't feel defeated, or like this is too hard. In all honesty, MOST of the time it's been fine. But, when he CHOOSES to make life difficult.. he is really good at it. (as most kids are...)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When the Fear Sets In

Posted by Mandy at 5:56 PM 4 comments Links to this post
I'm hiding sitting in the office, listening to the kids giggle in the playroom down the hall. All 6 of them. My nest is full, my heart is full, my body and mind are TIRED.

We have our two foster sons here, and Emily.. the girl we so much wish we could add to our family. Time will tell.

During the busyness of each day I have found myself constantly pushing back thoughts that are surfacing. Feelings that I don't want to feel. I don't want to admit what's happening to me... but yesterday.. I finally admitted it.

I am falling in love. And, I know it will be a love that in the end, will probably break my heart. Enter: The reason most will not do foster care.

As I sat and rocked my 19 month old "Little Brother" to sleep for bed last night, with him facing tummy to tummy with me, and his nose burried so deep into my neck, just as my own babies did... I sang the two songs to him that I sing each night, and he hummed along. He patted me with one hand, and held my shirt with the other. I held one hand on the back of his head, holding him close, and the other around his bottom, so he wouldn't slip. We sat there rocking, singing... and falling in love. I put him in his crib after a kiss on the forehead and he opened his eyes to see me one last time.. he needs that reassurance. For the first time I whispered, "Good night, baby... I love you."

He calls me Mama. He cries for me to hold him. He cries when I leave him for any reason. He delights in my presence when I enter a room... especially if I've been gone for a while.

Today, as I rocked him before his nap... I felt the love growing, and the fear gripping me. I kept thinking, "You cannot love him this much.. you just cannot do this to yourself!"

But, how do you stop love? Why would you if you could?

My mind wandered to how long the boys would stay here. Would it be one more month? One more year? Thoughts circled of saying goodbye to two boys that are becoming my sons. How do you say goodbye?

You know when you open your home to the homeless that this is what you are getting into. You do it anyway, and you trust God to heal your broken heart when it breaks. Because it will break. Daily at times. When the 6 year old that thinks everything you say is hilarious, and wants to show you what a big and smart boy he is later tells you about abuse he's suffered as if it's no big deal.. your heart breaks. When you see that he's learning how to be in a real family, and he's let go of his food control because he finally trusts that you will ALWAYS feed him again... and then you think of him going back to where he came from.. your heart breaks. When you think of their mother and all she's going through right now, your heart breaks. This is not glamorous. This is not for our glory. This is not what most think... it isn't what I thought.

Fears are constant in my mind. I don't want a broken heart. I don't want "my boys" to leave and grow up in an inadequate household... possibly wasting the potential they possess. But, then I am gently reminded.. it isn't about me. I say that to myself constantly when my selfishness sets in. "This is NOT about me." It isn't even about them. It's all about being obedient to God's word... to care for the orphans and widows... and God didn't put stipulations in the Bible about "when you feel you are strong enough for the heartache..." or "when it suits you.." or "IF it suits you."

God always calls us to do what we feel we cannot... how else would he receive the praise?

So tonight, as I gear up to rock "my" boy to sleep and read stories to his big brother as he snuggles with me on the couch... I will admit my love, my fears, and my doubts. I will tell God and I will pray for more peace. A peace that doesn't come from understanding...

These are the two songs I sing and pray over Big and Little Brother each night... and honestly.. over myself.
 Sons and Daughters - Poor and Powerless
Phil Wickham - Safe

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Double the C's and Double the S ... in the End You Have Success!

Posted by Mandy at 2:25 PM 7 comments Links to this post
When you're walking on unsteady ground, you hate to celebrate out-loud when things become stable. Like you'll jinx yourself or create an earthquake. But, I decided to take a leap of faith and say HOORAY for the world to hear.

One week without major incident. Woop woop!

No lying (that I've caught,) No stealing (that I know of,) and much, much less bragging and "being obnoxious" from 6-yr old "Big Brother."

Social skills are quickly forming and can I get a hallelujah over that one?! Our first few play dates with friends all ended in tears, fights, and me wanting to strangle him. He, of course, looked at me like "What? Me? I didn't do anything wrong." After his restitutions were paid (such as cleaning up all of the toys solo at a friends house, even the ones that were out before we got there in an effort to "be a GREAT guest and make them want us to come back... and to be a HUGE blessing to our friends," he quickly figured out that being the punk-kid that bugs everyone makes ppl 1) not want to play with you and 2) makes your nazi-foster-mom make you make up for it. Lessons learned...

We've now had three play dates that went WONDERFULLY. No fights. No annoying chatter. No lying and making the kids angry.

Things aren't always smooth-sailing amongst the "siblings".. but nothing out of the ordinary. Being stuck together for all of these freak snow-days we've had lately has helped, and made it worse depending on the time of day and what everyone is in the mood to tolerate.

Speaking of.. here are some fun pics of our fun in the snow! See... we do have fun.. it isn't always restitutions and strong-sitting and duct tape... umm... never mind...

Samuel


Big Brother


Carter


Madison


Big Brother and Little Brother


Samuel and Little Brother being pulled on our redneck sled


See, we really do love each other... fun in the backyard


Our BFF's and their cuttie-patootie son

This successful snow day was brought to you by friends that bring 4-wheelers...


... and beer.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Where's my Maternity Leave?

Posted by Mandy at 10:58 AM 1 comments Links to this post
One of my best friends and I were talking a few days ago and I told her how tired I am right now. Exhausted. Run down. I need to sleep for 15 hours straight-tired. She related.. she remembers those adrenaline-filled, constant going, days of fostering. Especially the first few weeks.

She made a remark that really struck a chord with me.

"When you have a new baby that's born from your body, everyone EXPECTS you to cocoon... to hide out.. to be relieved of your regular duties. But when you add two foster kids to your home, with only an hours notice.. it's like everyone expects you to just go on with life as usual."

YES. This is exactly what my problem is.

Not only does it seem that's how the general population feels... but it's a pressure I've placed upon myself. To keep my house just as clean as before. To spend as much one on one time with my kids as before.To keep up with church duties. To have supper on the table by 5:30... even though my husband is never home on time.. but that's an entirely different post - just like before. I can tell by the lack of a cape that I am not Supermom.. so why am I trying to immulate her?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Because Foster Kids Lie

Posted by Mandy at 12:43 PM 8 comments Links to this post

.. about everything. Even when it doesn't matter. And I knew this before, so why am I so stunned?

Our "big brother".. age 6... has begun the art of lying. Oh wow.. if there were awards given out for lying way too good to be so young, he'd be the winner or at least runner-up.

Lies range from "I didn't do it" to "I don't know" and "No I didn't, he's lying!"

Why hello, reality! I wondered when you'd show up!

I am SUPER thankful to have friends that have done all of this before. You know, the ones that you call, totally frustrated with no idea what to do, and they giggle. Yeah.. you read that correctly. Giggle. I think it's a mix of "Yep... now you see what I've dealt with all of this time," and "No biggie.. here's what you can do."

Thankfully, my best bud Brandy, over at Sugar and Spice has pretty much dealt with IT ALL with raising her crew and fostering several. She directed me to a WONDERFUL blog for anyone dealing with foster children, especially those with Reactive Attachment Disorder called Welcome to my Brain. I sat and watched like 10 of her videos the other day... priceless!

So, what I've learned so far from all of my buddies is this:

1. Never ask them "why." They don't know why.

2. Never ask them "did you." Because they'll lie. And you'll fight... and it gives them power.

What TO do:

1. State that you know what happened. Tell them what they did, and tell them why you don't appreciate it. Or, skip that step. They know you know.. move on. Typical discipline doesn't work. Time outs just make them feel pushed away, punishments feed their anger and resentment.

So - enter "restitution's."

Big Brother has learned that for each "wrong" he does to someone, he must make it right.

Example:

The other day I was painting one of our hallways. He watched me do it. We chatted happily the entire time. I turned my back to put the paint trays away and when I looked up he was running his finger down the wet wall. He saw me see him... he acted as if nothing had happened.

I WANTED to scream.. and yell.. and punish. I was furious. Especially after some incidences the previous day. Instead, I heard my friends' voices in my head and did what they recommended.

I said, "I know you just ran your finger across that wet wall. Now I have to repaint it, and that makes my night a lot harder. You can sit right here in this chair and think of something you can do to make my  night easier."

I said it in a nice voice - not firm, not harsh. Not the way I FELT like saying it. He was obedient... he sat for 10 minutes quietly. I asked, "Have you thought of something or do you need help?" He said he could think up something...

10 more minute passed. He finally came to me with his idea.

"I'll clean up the table after supper.. I know you don't like to do that job. And, I'll draw you a picture to say I'm sorry."

Wow... two restitution's! Good job, Buddy!

That was that. I never brought it up again.

This is just one incidence... we've had a few that I've handled wrongly, by asking if he did "it" or why he did "it." Let me tell you.. that DOES NOT WORK. This does work.

Today was his first day of school here - he is in Kindergarten. I am a bit nervous to see how he does... mainly because I have huge fear of not handling problems the right way with him and making things worse. This is a whole new ballgame. This is not like parenting your biological children... parenting an abused, neglected, traumatized child presents challenges like nothing I've ever experienced. Again, SO thankful to have friends that have been there and done that.. or are there, doing it now!
 

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