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...

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