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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