Sunday, February 21, 2016

Record holder

Recently Crocodile reached the point that he has been in our home longer than any other foster child.  And still the strangest part is that we don't have a "next step" looming ahead, not for awhile.  It's unsettling, and we learn to live in feeling unsettled.

For today, I don't care.  I heard him shout with joy, not once, but dozens of times today.  Which is pretty normal for him.  I observed as he got out Rhinoceros's doll just to give it to him.  I saw him zoom down a hill on a ride-on toy, giving me a glance to connect that I was still there.  I enjoyed who he is with others around me, his bright blazing light of energy, and we couldn't contain our laughter at Crocodile and his zeal.  And there's the more normal parental stuff: we cleaned up his messes, calmed him down, helped him sleep, not fancy and often trying of our patience, but also tender and a part of love through actions that makes us better people.  He doesn't belong to us, yet he's ours in the way we beam and glow when we see how he makes others smile.

Wherever he goes, I pray his bright light, his unstoppable sunshine grin, will go with him and never dim.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Partnership with other foster parents

In training for foster care, there is a lot of discussion about relationships with birth families.  I'm very glad that this is a part of training and I always bring it up as a topic for more training and discussion.  But I didn't expect to be working together with other foster parents as much as I have.

Some connections come and go.  We've had a few connections with providing or needing respite.  Some have been more lasting, like a group I attend in which foster parents voice opinions and concerns of foster parents within the system.  There are support groups, an informal one I currently attend, an a formal one that was going, has stopped, and I'm helping to get going again.  There are online communities, answering questions and following stories, blogging and reading blogs.

The connections I didn't really expect are the ones that happen when foster parents share a case.  Because we foster one child at a time, many of our cases have involved siblings.  So, we do a lot of planning with other foster families.  We've planned sibling visits, sleepovers, parenting time schedules that work for everyone, and transitions to move a child.  Sometimes it's nice, with someone to chat about the kids with, and it's nice not to be the only foster parent attending court.  The end of visits can be crazy, though, with multiple kids going different directions.  Let's just say the conversation with birth parents I imagined when I went through training doesn't go so well when there are three foster families involved simultaneously picking up kids whose emotions are running high.

But sometimes it gets a little interesting.  What if your hopes and expectations of the case are different than another family?  What if another foster parent complains and expect you to agree, and you don't?  What if one foster family is advocating for biological family, and another foster family is more skeptical?  Ideally, we'd all be on the same page, but we all come from our own perspectives.  Thankfully, in almost every case, I've been confident that we all love the kids and want what's best for them.

Have you shared cases with other families?  How has your experience been?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Self-care goals for the year

So, it may be February already, but it's still good to look at some goals I set at the beginning of 2016 to make sure I take care of myself in this fostering life.  I was especially inspired by Maralee at A Musing Maralee to take time to reflect, define, and schedule my self-care.  I took myself out for coffee with my laptop and wrote out what I was currently doing and if it met my goals of taking care of myself and recharging or not.

1. Run twice per week early in the morning, prepare podcasts to listen to on Sunday.  I feel better when I run, and I enjoy being outside by myself in the early morning, even though it's hard to get out of bed.  I have been doing this for over a year, but I do skip if I'm not feeling 100% or if a child woke me up during the night.  I skip even though I know that 40 minutes of sleep really won't make up for the stress reduction from exercise and listening to a sermon or something that makes me laugh.  It's so hard to convince myself of that early in the morning, though.

2. Go out by myself to a coffee shop once per month.  Oops, have not done this yet.  One problem I'm finding is that I overschedule myself with so many things I want to be involved with and should be involved with, that I feel like I shouldn't leave just to be by myself and do my own thing.  I've already been doing my own thing.  I frequently leave the kids home with B for one meeting or another.  But while these things are essential to me, they aren't helping me slow down.  And sometimes I need to slow down, enjoy a coffee, and enjoy different surroundings.  One thing B and I do is take turns on sleeping in on weekends, and if I'm not actually sick or sleep-deprived, I may wake up anyway and duck out for breakfast by myself.  I did that once awhile back and it was great.

3. Go out with friends every other week, scheduled on Tuesdays but flexible if other events come up.  Lots of good things have come up lately, so maybe I don't need to schedule myself as much as I was thinking a month or so ago.  I started going to a weekly Bible study, so I'm pretty covered every week, though if I'm honest I need some fun friend outings as well.

4. Be involved in things that I'm passionate about.  This is also where I run into overscheduling, but in some ways I need to do these things.  The daily life of fostering the child in our home drives my time, emotions, and energy in many ways, and I believe in those sacrifices.  But I also want to do something outside of focusing on that one child, which includes being involved in the broader world of foster care, and also being involved in a cause completely unrelated to foster care.  The foster care activities help me feel like I have a voice and I'm not alone, and the other cause gets me excited and talking about a completely different topic.  I think I need both to be healthy, but they all take time.  I need to forgive myself when I skip something that is a part of one of those causes, because I really can't do it all.

5. Forgive yourself for convenience choices, but try to eat quality food.  I'm just realizing I need to work on this.  I used to eat fruits and vegetables non-stop, but somehow I've been feeding them to the kids and not eating them myself.  Mainly I'm just running around too much to stop and make something healthy that I enjoy eating, or I just forget that now that we have bigger kids I need to buy more produce.  In the checkout lane the other day, the clerk was incredulous about the amount of produce, and we still ran out in a week.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

First Day February 2016 - Work and Hide and Seek

The first of each month I document glimpses of my anonymous life with a happy collection of photos of unimpressive quality.  I worked a full day on February first, so not much kid time, but I did have a bit of fun with some pretty weak hide-and-seek competitors.

And yes, I skipped January because I was on vacation and giddy with leaving behind all responsibilities, including taking usable pictures for blogging.  But I will leave one here from that week to represent January.  Ahhh.