Wednesday, November 26, 2014


My heart is still heavy with knowing that Caterpillar will have to adjust to a new home in his little life, and that it's not ours.  My heart is heavy that I have looked up how the parents of our former foster babies are doing, and they are not doing well.  My heart is heavy that Cricket has been asking constantly to see her mom, and yet two visits in a row were missed.  I don't have a number I can call for her to wish Cricket a happy Thanksgiving.  My heart is heavy with the events in Ferguson, tears flowing from knowing that there is no quick fix.

But I am thankful.

I am thankful that Cricket is coming with us to my parents' house out of state for Thanksgiving.  Last year we brought Pterodactyl with us.  I know my family is kind, compassionate, and thoughtful.  I think a holiday may be more challenging for Cricket because of her age and her possible sensory issues, but I'll be with people who will give us space and grace. I found these ideas to be helpful, and I hope we can be responsive and kind when Cricket throws us a curveball.

I am thankful that we have come so far.  Two and a half months ago, we were up through the night with a scared child who could only cry that she wanted to eat.  She wasn't hungry, but she couldn't figure out how to process what was going on; she just knew that it was all wrong.  Don't get me wrong, she is still having a very hard time, and understandably so.  But she can communicate with us.  A two-year-old is telling us feelings, and that's pretty incredible.  And we have all adjusted for what life feels like in our home, caring for Cricket and her needs.  It's still a process, but we have also come so far.

I am thankful we have a hope in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit with us, interceding when our groans are just pain and sorrow, incomprehensible.  Like Cricket, trying to sleep in a strange house, crying "I wanna ee-eat," though her stomach was full.  All our incomprehensible cries are heard, and we are all loved.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lesson Learned: Hair Breaks and Hair Blogs

Three weeks ago, I spent more than I've ever spent at a salon for myself and paid to have someone do cornrows on Cricket's hair.  It turned out adorable and Cricket's mom loved it, but the main reason was that I just needed a break to regroup.  With inconsistent visits, her mom is no longer styling her hair, and I had been burned out on sometimes planning on her doing it, then having to throw something together, then it not looking so great.  The break I got from having someone else do a 3-week style totally worked, as now I have new energy and am even looking forward to tomorrow's hair session.  I'm going to do the same veil style with two puffs in the back that I did before, but this time with braids instead of twists.  Then the next week I'm looking forward to trying something new.

Part of looking forward to new styles comes with finding the right way to do hair research.  I've found great sites like Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care.  I bought her book (which I found even more helpful for a beginner than the site) as well as It's All Good Hair and have learned a lot.  But I think the hardest part is that the advice and style ideas are so diverse that very few fit Cricket's hair, which is not that long yet.

I just found a complete breath of fresh air, exactly what I needed to get going again.  A blog by a beginner with a child of the same age and similar hair length and type.  I can read about what she tried and be reassured that it's trial and error.  I can see what works and feel more confident that it will work for her hair length.  The blog is no longer updated, but Shades of Violet circa 2011 is a parallel styling journey with me and Cricket.  So excited to try some of these styles that I feel I can actually handle and be fairly successful with.  I can do this!  And as in one of my previous lessons learned, if I find I can't, I'll ask for help.  Please chime in with any hair journey blogs that have been helpful for you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Caterpillar Update

I said in this post that I sometimes avoided looking at pictures of our former placements because I didn't want to feel how I miss them.  That's part of it.  If I'm completely honest, I avoid it also because it's tempting to look back on those placements as rosy and wonderful compared to the battleground I'm living in now.  Don't get me wrong, God has us in this place for a reason and a good part of me is very glad we have Cricket.  This is the kind of hard work we wanted to do.  I love her deeply, and she needs our love.  She needs us to stick with her.  But a small part of me just wishes for the babies that looked up at me sweetly.  Caterpillar is especially hard to think about because he was such a happy, easygoing guy with us.  It was a pretty rosy life, and even B admitted it was hard to let that go.

That made listening to a recent voicemail extremely difficult.

The relative he moved to is having him moved, so they called us.

We have to say no.

1. We already said no to Cricket's siblings.  If we had another child here, we should have one of her siblings, like her baby brother that's about Caterpillar's age.  I can't justify keeping her apart from her siblings just to have Caterpillar because he's Caterpillar.
2. The reason we turned down Cricket's siblings still stands: Cricket needs a ton of attention.  She and the boys are just now starting to have more frequent positive times together.  Giving her less attention now would be a disaster.
3. Caterpillar is now linked to his sister who came into care later than he did (long story).  They want a home for both, and she would not be a good fit for our family age-wise.
4. We don't have a room for him.  He would need to be in our room and that has not been good for us as parents in the past.

I don't think the hardest part is saying no.  I think the hardest part is feeling like all of this should have been avoided.  He should have just stayed with us.  The relative didn't have to take him.  He will be moving to his fourth home before he turns a year old.  Will it even be the last?  I'm so scared of what that will do to this sweet, happy baby that I knew.  My first reaction to the voicemail was a physical pain, just hurting for him.

My only choice is to trust that God hurts when we hurt for these children, and he knows better than I do.  I had to go to work soon after this news and in the car every radio station was wrong for the particular pain I was feeling.  B had a practice CD for gospel choir in the CD player, and two songs preached to me: one about God as a healer, and one about God being able.  Thank You God that these are true.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More good things

Someday I'll come up with a thoughtful series of these, but for now I'm just going to write them when I'm feeling joyful and thankful.  Then try to remember to read them when I feel less so.

- Cricket, when she saw snow in the morning: "It's... It's Christmas!!"  She keeps saying that now and then, like when we made a snowman.  I can't stop loving it.

- We've tried an incentive for quiet voices in the car (i.e., no screaming just because you know it terrorizes the other people in the car), and Cricket is totally going for it.  Also, putting down one of the fold-and-go seats has given everyone more room and less potential for freaking out because someone bumped into you.  My blood pressure no longer increases every time we head toward the car.

- We checked out books at the library without Cricket attacking the library checkout computer or anyone flopping around on the floor.

- I got a membership at a family rec. center place where I can work out and bring the kids to the child care.  I needed more built-in, no-calling-sitters-necessary break time, and I'm glad I just went ahead and did it, even though the cheapskate in me resisted.  We went once already and they had fun playing and I loved the break.

- Dinosaur has worked harder at saying kind things to Cricket, and some are so sweet.  A neighbor boy also has a soft spot for Cricket and keeps inviting her to do things with him.

- We won a raffle through our agency for 3 hours of house cleaning!!  Every foster parent should get this.

- We watched almost the a whole Veggie Tales movie all on the couch together in complete peace.

These may sound like little things, but they are huge for me.  Every day is an intense emotional battle for me and the things I need to deal with in my heart.  God has broken me apart piece by piece, but He is also building something beautiful in all of us.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fears of feeling

Sometimes I don't want to make contact with the families that Pterodactyl, Beetle, and Caterpillar are with now, because I don't want to fully feel how much I miss them.  I think about them often, and it feels strange, like I've locked them away somewhere and I'm not fully letting myself remember them and love them.  Even when I try and look at their pictures, it's a swirl of mixed emotions as I almost want to look away, to stop as soon as I can.  I feel the pain of missing them, but it's the tip of the iceberg.

Sometimes I just feel helpless as Cricket asks again and again for her mom, her sissy.  She used to talk about her granny, but does less now.  Asking for them less just shows the loss in another sad way.  These moments happen coming home from the grocery store, getting ready for naps.  She tells me she wants them to come with us in the minivan at the end of the visit.  I address the moments lovingly with Cricket, but my own heart stings.  I bury these away, too, and it's just the tip of the iceberg again.

B says he wouldn't change how deeply I feel things because I makes me who I am.  But I'm afraid of how I feel things.  I'm afraid it will lead me to give up.  I'm afraid it will turn me into someone I don't recognize because I haven't fully dealt with it all.

I just pray, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  Help me, Jesus.  Please don't waste this pain.  And don't let me waste away in it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Visit house

I mentioned awhile back (though I can't find the post at the moment) that our agency was moving from visits supervised at the agency office to visits at a house set up for that purpose.  It took awhile, but visits have started at the new visit house.

The downsides to visits at the agency were plentiful.  It is not a large office.  If a child is screaming in a visit room, the entire office hears it.  There were white noise machines set up, but it really couldn't help things.  Plus there was the chaos of a very small waiting area and people trying to do work just a few feet away in their cubicles.  The visit rooms at the agency, though well-equipped with toys, are very small.  I wouldn't want to spend an hour or more with my kids in one of those rooms, let alone with a child that is confused or upset the whole time.

So, now the agency has a house for most visits.  It has three rooms with toys that can be used for different visits, plus a kitchen if families want to use it.  It still needs a bit of work, but I think it's a great direction to be moving in.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides.  One is that it's way across town when the agency was less than 10 minutes away.  Right now our visit schedule is awful, with no ability to hang out on that side of town for an hour and a half because I need to pick up Dinosaur from school (in our neighborhood) in the middle of the visit.  So we are doing lots of driving and trying to figure out if we can get some transportation support to cut down on the madness.  I do think we were a bit spoiled over the last year with being able to zip over the agency in a few minutes and hang around at kid-friendly places with Rhinoceros and/or Dinosaur nearby, so I should accept that visits are just going to interrupt life horribly sometimes.

The other downside is that Cricket interprets the house to be somebody's house.  So far, I think she's just said it's her mom's house.  So, she is awfully confused when she has a visit with her dad, or when her mom didn't show up.  Plus, now she is asking to just go to her mom's house, because she has a concrete idea of where her mom is and wants to go there, even if we explain that she doesn't live there.

I think with time it may get easier, but man, foster care is full of surprises!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some good things

I feel like my blog is a downer.  I won't stop being real about how difficult the last two months have been, but I need to throw in some happy stuff from today.

- B as the go-to person for when Cricket's bedtime and if she wakes up at night has worked so, so much better than me trying to be involved at all.  Last night she woke up twice, but he told her to lie down, and she did, no drama.  Everyone back to sleep.

- Cricket spontaneously offered stickers to Dinosaur.  Then they started asking each other for hugs and did a good job of telling each other when they needed space.

- The kids got dressed this morning in a reasonable amount of time, and Cricket didn't act out to get attention when I was helping Rhinoceros get dressed.  This is huge.

- Cricket and Rhinoceros sometimes do the most adorable pretend play, like praying before a meal.  For some reason after they say "amen," they start running around in circles, but I'll take it.

- We've been practicing "with permission and supervision" from The Connected Child to ask before using grown-up things.  Cricket asked for a butter knife to cut her grapes, and I realized, sure, she could try that with permission and supervision.  She did a great job AND it kept her at the table for lunch longer so I could eat.  And of course Rhinoceros wanted the positive attention and asked for a knife, too.  Something I never pictured with a two-year-old, but it totally works!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lesson Learned - Home Visit Timing

We had an annual licensing visit today.  We were toying with the idea of going to an event at church tonight, so I scheduled it for the moment that B would get home from work and I would be coming in the door with the kids from getting Dinosaur from school.  Everyone's there!  Perfect!  And she was right on time!

Perfect disaster.  When we walk in the door, the kids simultaneously need seven things.  And I need to set them up with something to do while we talk with the licensing worker.  Plus I had forgotten that Dinosaur goes into turbo crazy mode when we have a visitor.  I knew Cricket wouldn't leave my side, but I hoped the older two would chill and enjoy some time away from Cricket.  Nope, drawn to the living room like a moth to a flame.  I tried to speak in coherent sentences while we navigated behavioral consequences and random unsafe behavior like tapping a lightbulb with a marker because it made a cool sound.  It was so chaotic that I am sort of expecting someone to follow up with us, either in a nice way, like offering support, or in a critical way, like an investigation.  It did not make me feel like I was an A+ parent today.  B says it wasn't really our fault and everyone knows that kids can be crazy with visitors sometimes, but I have hard time believing that we couldn't have diffused it somehow, because that's just the kind of person I am.  And it's stressing me out.

From now on, 10-15 minutes buffer time for settling in.  A show will be playing.  Plan B and Plan C will be set up in case of failure.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

First Day November 2014 - Hair sessions, jam sessions

I'm linking up with Journey to Josie for a photo slice of our lives on the first day of each month.  Check it out and join in!

Highlights were a birthday party with some jamming on our friend's instruments and the first visit to a braid shop (Is that the term?  Please educate me.) to give me a bit of a break with Cricket's hair, and those events also took up much of the day.  It's been busy busy busy around here, and I'm thankful Nov. 2 is a little slower and less scheduled.