Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vacation complete

Complete vacation.

It was strange.  I'm not sure if it was the week offline or just the way grieving a goodbye happened this time, but I had almost zero foster care-related emotions on our vacation.  I stopped, and enjoyed being there.  Sitting with B by a camp fire almost every night, just the two of us.   Reading.  Playing hypnotically long games of War.  Lots of walks and hikes.  Throwing rocks into the water.  Being far, far from civilization.

It was magical.

I'm so glad we got away, and when we did.  I was a little nervous about being just a family of four in such a remote place for so long, but it allowed us to just pour attention into our two boys.

I did have my phone, but I barely use it, so almost no one calls it unless I've specifically told them to.  One voicemail earlier in the week was someone pocket-dialing me.  Today I saw another as we were about to use a slingshot to send zucchini into a field at the farm we were playing around at.  I didn't check it during the family activity (and who would want to leave the squash-flinging action anyway), but checked it later to get a message from a placement worker.  She wasn't sure if we were open for placements or not, but was calling anyway.  We were still very far away from home and the message was already old, so I didn't call back, and e-mailed when we got home to explain we were still off the list.

But still, knowing a 3-day-old baby was placed yesterday brings me back down to earth.

So does walking past the bedroom our foster children sleep in.

I admit I didn't spend a lot of time journaling and reading my Bible on vacation, but when I did, I went straight for verses about preparing, thinking about preparing ourselves for our next phase of fostering.  All verses bounced me another direction than what I had been thinking: God is preparing us.

So, here we are, prepared not in the way that I really feel prepared, but prepared in the way that God has made everything fit together in his mysterious way.  Tomorrow, laundry.  Oh man, the post-camping laundry.  Monday, starting toting that phone around, waiting for calls.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How I'm spending my break

Sometimes I feel pressure to do everything during fostering breaks.  We are going on vacation on Friday, so I just have tomorrow to finish my to-do list for this break.  I made freezer meals.  I think that's the only one I accomplished.  I tell myself we've been doing lots of fun stuff and soaking up this time as a family of four, and we really have.  So why do I feel such dread knowing that I never cleaned out those cabinets, never got outgrown clothes ready for a sale?  I need to let it go, and I'm having trouble doing that.

So, I'll continue listing things I'm thankful for during these few weeks.
  • Camping for a week starting Friday.  Even if it's not a perfect time, it's going to be so much easier without a baby.
  • Dates.  Partly by chance, we had two dates in a week, both very fun times with my very fun B.
  • Game time.  I've had time to play a card or board game with Dinosaur about every day, and he soaks it up.
  • Boat time.  We went to a friend's house on a lake, and got to enjoy having the four of us out on the boat together.
  • New sitter.  The woman from our church choir just babysat for a date night to get to know our biological kiddos, and she is beyond fantastic.  She set up an obstacle course and wore them out.  She's a genius.
  • Fewer appointments.  No waiting room time for weeks.  Ahhh.
  • Helping out another foster family with child care.
It's not all rosy.  My emotions have evened out about Caterpillar's goodbye, but I've still been feeling a little off, a little flat.  And I've put unhealthy pressure on myself to do many house things all at once.  I'm looking forward to getting out of the house for a week, sitting outside, reading lots of books, and not reading a darn thing on the internet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blessed by Caterpillar

We already saw Caterpillar again today.  I was going to wait a month or so and drop off his photobook/life book, but I found some medication-related things I needed to get to his new foster mom that meant sooner would be better.

It was good timing, as this morning Dinosaur had said sadly, "I want to kiss a baby."  He got his wish, and Caterpillar was really into looking at him.  He wasn't very smiley, but he's not always so smiley.  With him and Pterodactyl, I swear you can read their minds when they're uneasy.  They don't cry, but they just look you right in the eye and practically say, "I'm not sure what's going on" with their serious looks.  It was still good to see him, though.  Same cutie as a week ago.

Time for me to do my reflections on how I was blessed by Caterpillar, as I did with Pterodactyl and Beetle.

What I learned from Caterpillar
  • Starting after the newborn stage is fun and so much easier.  I'd never had a child that I didn't meet in the newborn stage, so I wasn't sure what bonding would be like.  It was no problem for us, and Caterpillar's adjustment to our home was pretty smooth.  Don't get me wrong, I still love newborns, though they're hard on our family and we will probably only take so many more of them.
  • B can bond emotionally with foster babies.  This hadn't been the case as much in the past.
  • Hair care can be intense.  I had to do a lot more research about methods and products just to keep his full head of black hair healthy.
  • Health concerns can be intense.  While Caterpillar was healthy overall, he had one issue that no one knew if it was really a concern or just the way he was.  We had lots of specialist appointments trying to figure it out.
  • I can use phone and text to form positive relationships with birth parents.  This was new territory, and I know it helped me be a better foster parent, and I hope it gave some comfort to Caterpillar's mom that she could contact me between visits.
What I loved about Caterpillar
  • His sweet charm.  You can't quite put it into words, because while he was less serious than Pterodactyl, he was still on the serious side.  But you just wanted to spend time with him, watching his expressions.  He was literally the life of the party at a BBQ we went to right before he moved.  He will be such a fun little boy; I just know it.
  • His hair.  He liked when I massaged his scalp a little, playing with his dense tiny curls, which is good, because I did it without even thinking.
  • His laidback nature.  He napped when he was tired, never for long, but always so flexible.  We got to do lots of fun things with him because he was so easy to take places.  Day-to-day life with him really was a joy, rarely stressful.
  • That he sucked on his two fingers, just like Rhinoceros.
  • His love for baths.  I have a picture of him grinning at himself in the mirror during a bath that is one of my favorite pictures of my babies, ever.
  • His love for music.  The day after he arrived, I sang to Caterpillar while rocking him, and he instantly perked up, stared at me, and started cooing along.  I will never forget our family dance parties to "I Feel Good," just loving the pure joy he had when we sang just the right song to him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Props to my agency

We foster through a private agency, and our experience has been overall quite positive.  It's especially the little gestures they do that make me feel that they recognize we are humans and parents going through this difficult experience, not just adults in a house with open beds, or glorified babysitters.  They've started to send us a card of appreciation after we take a new placement, just acknowledging how we open up our home to children.  Then today I received a card, just thanking us for the love we showed to Caterpillar and all these babies.  My love language is words, words, words, and it means so much to receive these little notes of encouragement.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tender, wounded hearts

The first couple of days after Caterpillar's goodbye were harder than I anticipated.  Now I feel much more balanced and like myself, though I'm still a little on edge.  I've been having really vivid dreams, though I'm not sure if that has to do with the good-bye.  I feel emotionally exhausted even when I sleep.  I just finished a photo book to go with Caterpillar and a photo book to stay with us (the former is more about him and his milestones, the latter has more of our family with him).  Those were exhausting, too, though I'm really happy with them and looking forward to flipping through them with Dinosaur and Rhinoceros.

I feel like when we're just a family of four I should soak up all the sweetness of Dinosaur and Rhinoceros.  But we're all going through a transition, and we're not always so sweet to each other.  I soak it up one moment, but then I turn around and snap at them.

Back-to-back, my foster mom friend and my mom called to see how I was doing one afternoon this week.  It was totally worth not accomplishing what I planned to accomplish during those phone calls.  I needed them.  I spent almost four hours at my church's mom's group, pouring out our hearts.  I needed that, too.

I don't like feeling so needy.  I wish I had more to give.  But I need to refresh and renew so I can give again.

I will say that there is so much I am thankful for during this break.  We'll go back on the list for placements in September.  I am thankful for a few weeks without carrying around a diaper bag!  Rhinoceros is finally potty trained, so there's no one in the house in diapers.  I am thankful for easier outings with kids: shorter shopping trips and much lower stress trips to the beach.  I am thankful for our upcoming anniversary and two dates this month.  I am thankful for the week-long camping trip we're taking at the end of the month, just four of us.  I am thankful I already got to see Caterpillar briefly (I forgot to pack an important bag with his medication - whoops), and that I have vague plans to see Pterodactyl soon.

It will be a good month, despite our tender hearts grieving a loss.  Rhinoceros is asking about Caterpillar more than he did with the other foster kids.  Dinosaur spotted a baby at church today and went right for him, asking eagerly, "Can I kiss him?"  He kissed Caterpillar like 40 times a day.  I know he misses him.  Even B, on the day Caterpillar moved, checked in with me and mentioned how this time it was a bit more emotional for him than for the others.  He just had more of a connection with Caterpillar even though he's not a baby person.  We weren't blindsided at all by this move, and we don't oppose it in the least, but it is still its own unique wound in the heart of our family.

I had the same photographer friend who did Beetle's photos do a photo shoot of Caterpillar before he moved, so you get another pair of baby feet to enjoy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lesson Learned: Move Details

I carefully planned Caterpillar's move to his relative today by getting Rhinoceros down for an early nap.  I'd prepped them that we were going to Ms. Teri's* house to say goodbye to Caterpillar.  Then about 30 minutes before "move time" B asked when he was being picked up, and I thought, hm, picked up?  Is that a possibility instead of me bringing him there?

I called Ms. Teri and yep, that's what was happening.  I'd just assumed I was bringing him there as that's how Pterodactyl's move happened (sort of, we met at the agency parking lot after hours).  Beetle's move was meeting at a doctor's appointment.  But it was good I called, because she had some questions for me that she might not have called just to ask.  So, in the future, I'll ask how the move is planned to go, and then I can give my input (I would have preferred to bring him there).

And how did it go?  As numb and strange as usual.  I soothed Rhinoceros's disappointment (he's obsessed with going to Ms. Teri's house though he's never been inside it) with a trip for ice cream, just two kids in the minivan.  Goodbye, Caterpillar.

*not her real name

Saturday, August 2, 2014

First Day August 2014 - Packing up, marching together

This day started out with everyday stuff, like breakfast leftovers and stocking up on veggies at the farmer's market, and some packing up of Caterpillar's things to get ready for his move.  Then in the evening I went to a demonstration/prayer meeting on immigration and the children at the border.  Not such an everyday event for me.