The System

Piles-of-paperwork-002

Listen. I’m not going to set up camp here. Build a house. Plant a garden. But today I am just gonna sit for a minute, in the uck. In the grumps.

I’m feeling it, a little bit. We’re almost to the year-and-a-half mark from when we thought we’d be taking in new littles. We’re hopefully? Possibly? Conceivably? close to licensing again. I’ve always been somewhat hesitant to talk in any concrete timelines, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still calculating likelihoods and minimums and maximums and “general ideas.” I’m kind of… over that now. I hope that’s not glum and Eeyore. I just find that it’s kind of wasted energy.

So we wait.

We had a thing come up, a possible placement, over Christmas break that was kind of exciting, although it was either a good chance or a super slim unlikely chance, which are indistinguishable in this business. Still, one of those things that you can’t not pursue.

You know, that’s really what this is. You throw every line in the water, you take every possible road, because so many of them will dead end that you can’t let any go by unacknowledged. You submit for every placement and you make yourself available for every possibility, hoping that out of dozens or hundreds one will stick.

Our first placement was also our first call. Our son was our second placement. I remember sitting at my desk at work during the several weeks that we were open for placements, before he came. (I only worked two days a week, but somehow EVERY CPS call came on a Thursday, a work day.) Every time I got a call I’d grab any scratch paper that was handy and scribble a few things down, as fast as I could. “Male, 2 years old, biracial, some occupational therapy in previous foster home but basic level of care, 3 half-siblings that live in Oklahoma with a family member” or “Male, somewhere around 6 months old, at the hospital, bio mom is unconscious so that’s all we know.” “Male, 4 days old, premature, and they want to know if there’s any possibility y’all have any Native American heritage?”*

It was a weird thing because I’d want to hang onto each paper and try and grab onto the phone call, holding it loosely but taking a little mental snapshot, thinking any of these COULD be a future Daniels, although they probably wouldn’t, but I’d want a sense of the first time I heard details about our permanent child.

Most of those we never even heard back from to say “no,” they just sort of faded. Although we could wait weeks and still not know if we had been eliminated or if they’d gone to another home.

And so we’d wait.

It’s all about leaving these trailing strands of hope floating out there, not hanging on too tightly to them, but not quite letting go either.

It hasn’t been that hard for me, honestly. It’s the name of the game. People talk about how they would love to help the kids, but the system is so broken. Well, there are a lot of heads on this particular monster, the one that’s keeping these kids busted and broken and isolated. Part of it is the abuse, the neglect, the substance addiction, whatever patterns the bio family may be in. Part of it is systemic problems of poverty, racial injustice, discrimination. Part of it is the stigmas they may or may not face for the rest of their lives. Part of it is the biological and neurological disadvantages they start with, that could manifest (or not) in any one of infinite ways. But part of it IS The System.

There are allies within The System, and a lot of people doing the very best they can to accomplish an impossible task. Overworked, overloaded employees who may be driven by compassion, or maybe they started out that way, and to varying degrees have sort of buckled under it. Some of them are gritty, tough warriors daily facing situations you and I can’t even dream of, and to us they seem callous or uncaring, but their prickly armor is the only thing that keeps them in the game, and we need it.

But also, I never have and never could count on The System to work perfectly (or even well) to help me do my part of the work of the gospel in introducing little souls to redemption, acceptance, and unconditional love.

That possibility? That I mentioned earlier? Well, the system failed him yesterday. It failed pretty spectacularly, and other players within The System are fighting that, and a reasonably, relatively un-crappy outcome is still possible, I suppose. I can’t say I’m surprised, and I hope that doesn’t sound like apathy or defeat.

So we wait.

But the thing is, my hope isn’t in The System, or this job would be unsustainable. I wish it could be, sometimes, in weaker moments, because The System has…… a system. Full of holes and squeaky joints, rusting and overloaded though it may be, it has a certain logic, sometimes, and you can point to reasons something did or didn’t work — there are people to blame.

In some ways it’s harder to put hope in the sovereignty of God, because there’s no system. Within that, there is just trust, and obedience, and patience. It’s not comprehensible, sometimes, but on the other hand, it literally never fails.

So I’m not sure, ‘how long’ this, or ‘how likely’ that. I don’t know. I’ll stop trying to guess or play probabilities.

Today I’ll wait.

Today I’ll trust, although just for today it might be a little grudging. I know all of the arguments, I know some people have it worse, and I know I have so many blessings, and I know it’s what we signed up for, and I know there’s a plan and a purpose, I know I know I know, but today I’m going to let myself feel disappointed, and not explain or rationalize it away.

It’s hard not to see the people left and right that the Great Stork decides to favor whether they even want it or not. It’s hard not to look back on how long it seems like we’ve waited, and the seemingly arbitrary things that have held us up. It’s especially hard not to look at the “need” and the “crisis” and to look at my empty beds and think about babies that don’t have one. And it’s frustrating. It just is.

When I think about the tightrope, the one between “ignorance” and “the paralysis of despair”; the tightrope between ignoring or shutting out, entertaining/distracting/avoiding — and becoming bitter, hopeless, angry… I always end up thinking of Jesus himself. Here’s what he’d do, I think:

He’d hope AND he’d mourn. He wouldn’t quit and he wouldn’t try to bash through, caring less and less about each kid because of the possible pain. He’d keep caring, and he’d allow himself and other people to hurt for things, and he’d push on, because that’s the real bravery. That’s the real strength. And he’d rely on his father for that strength, for the real and only object of hope, because otherwise it’s absolutely, utterly, literally unsustainable. But with that source of strength, it’s a sure victory.

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*FUN FACT: We have only ever gotten ONE single call for a female child, the one that I wrote about here. I have no idea why this is.

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The Pause

Two and a half weeks ago I broke one of my own rules and posted a sort of cryptic post on FB… I’m not proud but hey. It’s the world we live in.

We hit a snag. A hiccup, let’s say. Our home study was a few weeks behind us, the last step on the whole shebang, and I was expecting a call any day telling us to come pick up our license. Well, we got a call. That they were denying us a license at all. “We’re sure you’d be great foster parents, you’re just not a match for Arrow.”

Now. Since then, we have worked out a number of things with our agency and they have changed their stance to where they are holding our file and want to revisit it with us after a time. An undefined period of time. So it’s not a closed door, just a “pause.” Hopefully.

It’s just never what you expect, is it?

To be honest, we kind of know what happened, but we also kind of don’t. There are things that we could improve, as a married couple. This is not a surprise to us. It’s impossible to say if these things are “worth” holding up, or possibly outright refusing, our licensing. Who’s to say? Well, actually, we know who’s to say — a collection of people who have seen a few things about us on paper. I don’t know, I always thought we looked pretty good on paper.

We are pretty sure we know why this happened, though. And to me, if there’s a Why, there’s not much that’s impossible to handle. As long as I know why. There are parts of me that want to whine about Why do we have to fix this one common thing before we’re allowed to parent, when hundreds of millions of people become parents every day without any of this scrutiny or perfectionism but the truth is, in most (the best) moments I believe that God wants us to fix this, and he knows why we need to. He wants us to be best and to be like him. Not to worry about who else gets away with what, or who else can work on stuff without having their life held up – if we need this, then we need it. If we need it now, and in this way, that’s frustrating and a bit hurtful and frankly rather embarrassing, then I guess we need it.

I don’t like it, because dozens of y’all invested in major ways to make this happen. You watched my kid and gave him baths and fed us dinner so we could go to classes. You outfitted our nursery and wrote recommendation letters. You prayed and prayed and prayed. You listened to me go on about THE PROCESS for hours upon hours. You checked in, you asked, you cared.

I watched moms with little-littles and considered who I’d be better friends with when I added the same aged kids to our family, who we’d go on play dates with or invite over while our dude is at school. I scoped out the best baby play places and sorted about a dozen bins of 0-24-mo clothes. I stocked diapers and assembled cribs and even made my sad attempt at decorating. I researched pediatricians and MOPS groups. I peeked out the corner of my eye, not daring to actually SHOP, for baby/toddler Halloween costumes that could be made or bought in a pinch. I spent about a thousand hours talking to our little man about it and trying to prepare him as much as humanly possible.

I invested, and that hurts, and you invested, and that really hurts. We want you all in on it because that’s how we’re used to living our lives, but now I feel like I have to go and disappoint everyone.

I felt like that moreso the first few days before we talked things over with the agency and they decided to continue to consider us. I hope it’s not one of those things, like where you go on some kind of blind date and the guy’s like “You’re not really my type” and then you stick it out and kind of manage to convince them that you’re alright after all, but then you’re like “well maybe I don’t want a second date, because awkward, and also you kind of hurt my feelings, and also what were you so judgy about in the first place.”

I don’t want to be petty but I also don’t want the whole thing soured a bit with people who are in charge of placing kids in our home. They have been very gracious though and for reasons that are complicated* may have been doing the best they knew how. They have apologized where they were wrong and have extended grace and a continuation of dialogue. They have also been kind where we were wrong and reasonably understanding. Maybe we’ll come out of this with an even greater mutual respect than we would have otherwise. Who knows.

So it could be a couple months. Or it could be a lot more months than that.

I know of so many families who adopted (or attempted to adopt) internationally who met stuff like this all the time. Unexpected delays of weeks, months, years. I kind of thought we might be going the route that avoided that, to some extent. Maybe a delay on your FOREVER kid but a fairly straightforward road into the parenting scene. All anyone can talk about is the NEEEEEED. Oh, the neeeeeed. Kids spending the night in CPS offices and police stations. Group homes bursting at the seams. And here we are. An empty room, two empty beds.

It’s not my favorite. Most of the past couple of weeks I have felt hopeful and peaceful and sound about it, that I’m sure it’s for the best, in some way I can’t quite see. I still am sure it’s for the best. And as I likewise noted on facebook, there have been such moments of provision – a visit from GOOD good friends, a call from this or that person, a note from my grandmother, a visit home for mom’s birthday – that came at just the perfect times to keep us moving forward.

So that’s our situation. I asked you all not to ask and you were marvelous. I sincerely, genuinely hate doing that. But I could not have that conversation a hundred dozen times. It made me heart-full and heart-sick at the same time that it WOULD be dozens of times, that so many people care and ask and follow up. I love that normally. It’s the only way we can do this, normally. But you have all been wonderful in being there when I needed you and then allowing me to rudely shove you away for a minute. You were there and you were sweet but you respected what I asked. You are the best.

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*Ok, no they’re not: There’s one random individual who we’ve never met before or since sent to our door with a questionnaire and zero context and a job description of “Figure out what might be wrong with these people” who is tasked with presenting the entirety of our human lives to the people in charge of deciding future temporary and permanent members of our family. It’s like a game of telephone. This unmarried 22-yr-old judges our marriage and parenting style and mental health in a matter of minutes, sends her interpretation to a room full of other people who have met us two times for two minutes, who then interpret her interpretation… I suppose it should be a miracle that we haven’t run into this before. Everyone from private agencies, CASA, contract home study workers, CPS, ad litems, everyone has liked us just a whole awful lot. Maybe we got too cocky. People are doing the best they can with what they have. But it’s a sad substitute for actual relationships with people who know people.

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The Going & the Staying 

Tomorrow he leaves for preschool – two years ago tomorrow he came. 

Little man’s school starts tomorrow after being home all summer with me. This past few months is actually the first time he has NOT been in school at least a couple days a week. Early days I was still working (out-of-home), and then he just really liked the structure (so did I, let’s be real). It hasn’t taken long to get used to allllllll the together time and to be just a smidge bummed about the mornings alone at home, coming up. 

  

[the closest I could get to a “school orientation day” picture]

Two years. 

On Cary’s birthday in early August we reached the halfway point – half of his life without us, half of his life with us. Took a while to get there. I thought I’d post something then but nothing particularly came out. I thought of plenty to say to him. Not much for the rest of you. 

Sorry.

Boom boom boom, all just about a month from each other – the Halfway Point, the 2-Year-Anniversary, and dude’s 4th Birthday coming up in a few weeks. 

I could tell you again about how hilarious this child is. How impetuous. How lightning-quick and lightning-intense. How he actually seems to just burn brighter than other kids around him. For good and for…challenging. The child does nothing halfway. He has an intensity that never slows – which sometimes means punching other kids on the playground (or The Incident as it’s referred to at our new church), and sometimes means things like counting to 100 and sounding out words at 3, and doing most of a kindergarten workbook 2 years before kindergarten, and being the only kid in his class to come close to conquering EVERY single activity in gymnastics at the annual assessment thing even though he’s only been 5 weeks. (Seriously, his teacher was like “He did amazing. No, like, Amaaaaazing. No like I’m serious. I was showing him stuff we’ve never even gone over before and he’d just, like, DO it. No I mean it’s not NORMAL.” with some major Serious Eyebrows so I’d know she meant business. I played it cool. But I know he’ll be an Olympian if he wants to be.)

He is literally like no one else. He is infuriating and thrilling and fierce and brilliant. 

There is actually no other kid like him.

Except every other kid on this here little planet. 

But here is the thing about my boy, my forever boy, my threenager-man-baby, my battle-hardened warrior – he is KNOWN. 

I am not kidding you that I find him eleventy times more fascinating and exciting and valuable than any other kid in the entire world. He IS more fascinating and exciting than any other kid in the entire world. To me, and to his Daddy. Because that is every child’s right. Not a one is more valuable or important than another. But every single one deserves to be THE WORLD – to their parent(s). 

To be known. 

I have screwed up so much in two years I can’t even believe I have the audacity to do this again. Sometimes I wonder what the **** I’m even doing. I wish I could say, and that he would understand at his tender young age, that I am SORRY for all the things I have misunderstood, I am SORRY for the wrecked state he found me in, I am SORRY for all the things he’s lost, for all the fights he’s had to fight and the ones he didn’t have to fight and the fact that he was a baaaaaby (for crying out loud!) and he didn’t know how to tell the difference, so he spent so long fighting everything and everyone, bless his little heart. 

But I know my boy. He surprises and moves me daily, I’m not kidding. I get more punch-in-the-gut moments than I ever dreamed I would (the sweet-sad, metaphorical kind [although I get my share of the literal ones too….]) where the depths of his thoughtfulness or understanding or brilliance or sweetness or bravery just blindside me. I will never, ever know all there is to know about this boy, but I know him deeply and richly and truly, and I also love him with a COVENANT I made that means that I will never, ever, ever go anywhere. A sticking love, a staying love, a digging-in love, a not-leaving love. 

Every single child deserves that. Everything (everything) else is negotiable. 

Do you have any idea how many kids reach “adulthood” without that? I could give you a statistic but you wouldn’t care. ANY. Any kids is too many kids. The truth of it is – there are thousands of kids waiting for families, but there are literally more churches than waiting kids in TX. Entire churches. Outnumber these kids. And still thousands wait. Church, where are we? Come on. This is our job. Again, I could give you scriptures but you have heard them before. I’m not giving you quotes and numbers for you to skim over. Go look it up if you want. It’s in there dozens of times – care for orphans, a family for the family-less. 

Providing is great, feeding is generally a good idea, fun times are nice, but this is your call (should you choose to accept it) – to know these kids and to stay. You don’t have to be hilarious, you don’t have to be fabulously wealthy, or have 8 Pinterest boards of sensory-rich developmental activities. Know them. And keep your promises. 

Every individual one of them is truly, actually infinite in their humanity – humor, talent, sweetness, hurt, insight, compassion… Each is made in the image of an infinite God and nobody else carries the same piece that they do. That’s our call – it’s not paperwork and it’s not classes and it’s not logs and it’s not even sleep schedules and packing snacks and changing diapers – it is to KNOW these children who deserve to be known the way that only parents can. That’s how it was always intended. 

And for those of you who think our dude is lucky – I am telling you now that for me it is a PRIVILEGE. I cannot thank God enough that this child got the opportunity to be known by his own parents, and that we get to be the ones to do it.

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Residual

Third and fourth foster/adopt training classes today. 3 – Communication (with kids and with other workers), and then 4 – Grief and Loss.

Just a little snapshot for you:

We were in the Grief/Loss portion of the day, talking about Attachment. Our instructor for this whole 7-part series is actually fantastic. She is articulate and thorough, compelling and challenging. I truly believe that she would rather have someone leave the class (and her agency) than have someone licensed who is ill-equipped to care for “her” kids (she is a case worker as well). I like her a lot and also based on how much she talks about shopping at Target and being neurotic about eating timely meals, I think we could be great friends.

So, attachment. It’s a major word in foster-adopt world, if you didn’t know. People go to seminars and hundreds of hours of therapy and read books and obsess and cry and pray about The Almighty Attachment. We were discussing the different types of attachment from the good (“secure” or “earned secure” attachment) to the pretty bad (avoidant, hostile, etc). It essentially describes the relationship a child has to their caregiver or parent, and she was describing how studies show that kids show significant signs of mirroring their caregivers’ or parents’ attachment styles within 3 months of entering a new situation.

So this means that if a kid has never had a trusting, nurturing, “secure” attachment environment and instead avoids or conflicts with their caregiver all the time, and that is how they are accustomed to relating to their caregiver (and therefore the world), it is typically within 3 months of being in a nurturing safe trustworthy environment that they begin to “latch on” and respond in kind to the new parent or parent figure.

All good things. A bit oversimplified, in my mind, but she’s not saying all problems are gone, just that kids respond in a relatively short time and begin to mirror healthier ways to relate to people, so okay, I’m with you.

She described a study in which (older) babies were brought into a room by Mom, and then left there for about one minute with a different supervisor adult, and they studied how they responded to their mothers leaving them. They then had the mothers come back in but stop just inside the door, and see how the infant responded. The ones with “secure” attachment would of course cry when Mom left, not be particularly soothed by an unfamiliar supervising adult, and then when Mom came back in they would book it across the room and hold up both arms to be picked up. Our instructor described how the babies would be quickly pacified as soon as Mom was back, and would often lean back to look in her face, and reach around and hold onto Mom’s hair, or the back of her neck.

This brought back some pretty acute memories of our baby, and the ways he would respond to me, and filled me with that sort of sick-sweet achey-happy warm-memory feeling of how healthy he had been, how happy, how attached, how wonderful it was, but you know. No more. So I kind of said to Dane, “Ha, I think I might cry,” not really meaning it.

I raised my hand at one point.

“What about the other direction? So for instance, we had a baby from 3 months old until 13 months old, and he had all of these ‘Secure Attachment’ things, but then he went back into a more chaotic environment where he probably had inconsistent caregivers, less needs met, stuff like that.”

As far as I can tell so far, we are the only “experienced” (meaning having ANY experience at all) foster parents in the room, so I wanted her to tell all of these parents about how even if their little one goes back home, they have made a forever difference in that child’s ability to relate to the world and to connect to people. I thought I already knew the answer.

“Well, it really lasts about 3 months,” she said. “Children from secure attachment backgrounds also really shift into the other attachment types if they are put into that environment, after about 3 months.”

So I clarified. “So the secure attachment, it doesn’t, like… stick with them somehow?”

“No,” she said, “not really. They will begin to be defensive or avoidant or whatever they pick up from the situation they’re in.”

Now listen. I know this is entirely too simplistic. I believe that this instructor knows a lot of things I don’t and has been involved in cases I couldn’t dream of, but she has also never parented, foster or otherwise. I think some of these things are coming from a textbook for her. I knew that her word was not gold. But it stung.

She seemed to kind of catch herself; what she was saying, and to whom.

“I mean, um, I didn’t mean to like, that sounds so depressing…”

I just said “It’s fine, I shouldn’t have asked,” but my eyes were sort of welling up. “I thought you’d say it leaves a positive impact long-term,” [uncomfortable laugh], “but I just shouldn’t have asked.” I had this idea, I thought, about how that year we had with our baby made such a difference, but when I think about it, where’d I get that idea from? Wishful thinking?

So I sort of waved her off, like please move on, because I was kind of embarrassed, because you guys I am still so often caught off-guard by how potently certain random things can sting and hurt. It’s not in the rational part of my brain and I can’t talk myself out of it, like I typically have with everything else in my life. I just sort of scrambled to take my hair out of the ponytail and let it hang down, look down at my paper, act cool, pull myself together…

I could tell the instructor was still looking nervously over at me every so often. Not so much nervous as kind of guilty. I’m not sure what she thought I meant by my question, or what she thought the answer would mean… I gave her the context.

But it wouldn’t pull together. So I ducked out the back.

In the stall of the bathroom the tears just FELL. It was as much because of this clear-as-day memory of little one booking it across the floor to me when I walked in, and his fingers in the back of my hair — as it was about her just telling me it was basically for nothing. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was but I tried to just wait it out.

A minute or two later the door opened and I heard “Hey….?”

I said “Hey,” and kind of wiped my face and came out trying to smile it off.

This lady from our class who I’d never spoken to before, but who I recognized as someone who came up with great questions and had very challenging input, who is actually super gorgeous and sort of assertive and smart and I had already developed a tiny girl-crush on her, was standing out there, looking kind of nervous to be butting in.

“I didn’t want to make a whole thing and tell my life story to the whole class, but I just really want to tell you,” she said. She proceeded to tell me about how she grew up in the projects with a single mom who I think she said was an addict, and a ton of siblings, and she lived in the world of the chaos and the defensive and the fend-for-yourself. She never knew her dad, but her grandma on the dad’s side would keep her for a few days at a time, just when she was REALLY little. She said they moved away and she stopped going to her grandma’s house when she was 4 years old, but she remembered, still and always, how Grandma’s house had different rules. You spoke more softly. You treated people with respect. You knew you were going to be taken care of, and you didn’t have to fight for yourself. She had her hair washed and brushed out at Grandma’s, but usually not at home. She wore shoes at Grandma’s house, she went to church at Grandma’s house, she was listened to at Grandma’s house even without shouting.

She said every time she went back to “Mama’s,” you better believe the gloves came off again, the shoes came off, the shrieking and pushing and clamoring came back, because that’s what you had to do there. She said “I think she’s talking about behavior. My behavior went right back to chaos every time I went back to chaos, because it had to. But I never ever forgot that environment.”

She said even though she was too young to have clear memories of it, she always carried with her this idea that the mess she lived in was not the only way to live, that this wasn’t the only way to treat people. She said when she grew up she based her life around “I want to create a home that’s like Grandma’s, not like Mama’s.” She said she doesn’t do perfect, but that’s why she’s here, in this class, that’s why she wants to care for these kids, is because Grandma showed her a different way to live.

I don’t think he’ll remember us, not at all. I reconciled myself to that idea almost 2 years ago. But the familiarity with a different kind of family, a different kind of relating to people, the idea of a place that’s safe and sweet and nurturing, my new friend says — that can stick a lot longer anyway.

So yes, I did end up hugging a total stranger in the bathroom today. I’m not sure there are many people who could have given me THAT medicine at THAT time but she was just there, just then. And thank God for that.

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Breaking it in

I studied abroad in Spain for a semester in college.

I can remember reaching a point partway through the semester when I had made some Spanish friends and I remember thinking one time that I felt like I was around people a lot, and hanging out with people a lot, and having a lot of fun and traveling to other places and having a ton of invaluable experiences, but how I felt like there was kind of a wall I’d hit, because in Spanish I was basically kind of like an 8th-grader, language-wise.

Typically I am a very VERBAL person (no way hyuk hyuk) and I was kind of thinking how I could get to a certain point with certain friends, but then my humor just didn’t come across, or I wasn’t sure what my stilted language was doing to my personality, or I would be listening to some kind of political or artistic debate and I had so many VIEWS but I just didn’t quite have the language to bust in and share them, or I would just get frustrated at trying to get my point across with utmost clarity and just kind of quit on the conversation, and we all know that early-20-somethings are nothing if they can’t pontificate with vigor, persistence, and irritating frequency.* 

Anyway all that to say. People are so nice. We are finding more and more opportunities to hang out with folks. The sea of faces from the stage at church is slowly resolving into more and more recognizable ones, and even some with names! But it still kind of feels like that thing in Spain – like there’s a little bit of a wall. 

We have to go through the stuff, every time, the “How old are your kids,” “What do you do,” “How long have you lived here,” “Where is your family,” and we have to do that because it sketches the outline of the person that could some day be our Robin and Greg or our Jon and Denise, but I’m pretty eager to get to the part where — Ok so for example: We went to a wedding this weekend. Dane was a groomsman. It was for my cousin. Now, a lot of people in Dallas, if they said “Hey, what are you doing for the 4th,” and I said “I’m going to Walter’s wedding,” their eyes would well up with tears, and they might hug me. Because a ton of them spent years praying for my cousin, and others of them went to Honduras with him right after he successfully completed rehab and heard his story. Some of them remember when he painted the sets during a good spell while he was staying with my parents. These are the things. You skip to 15-feet deep without so much as a word. 

Good Lordy but I am impatient. 

As you all probably know, we are (still) [interminably] {like it’s our job} working through getting back on the list of waiting families for little foster kiddos. 

Here’s the God’s-honest. You don’t come here for rainbows and butterflies. To be honest, there are parts of me that are like “give me a baby to snuggle!”** but there are BIG parts of me that are just a teensy bit utterly and abjectly terrified at the prospect of that SHIFT. The shift is not easy. The shift from 3 to 4; the shift in sleeping schedules for pretty much everyone involved; the monumental, tectonic shift ONE of us has to deal with from Mom-and-Dad’s-Only to Not-Any-More; and of course the usually-underemphasized shift ONE (or two) of us has to deal with from The-Only-Place-I’ve-Ever-Known-with-my-Own-Actual-Family to Total-Strangers-in-Strange-Place-with-No-Warning-and-No-Comprehensible-Explanation. 

There are big ole parts of me that don’t want to MAKE new friends in a new place, and don’t want to BRING another kid in, but I want to HAVE DONE those things. I want to skip the itchy, grouchy, ill-fitting, unfamiliar, weird-smells, frustrated-plans, not-what-I-expected chapter. I want to jump past the part where your kid(s) is(are) miserable and you pretty much just don’t have an answer or a solution, and BE a family of 4, or 5, who have friends who show up at my house and get food out of my fridge without asking and holler at my kid if he’s asking for it.

This is expected. I knew we’d be fine, I knew people would be friendly, and I knew we’d have some time before depth happens because good things are earned and there’s no shortcut. I knew fostering and adopting would take longer than we wanted them to, and we’d feel like we were going in circles; I knew these things. But that’s kinda where we are at the moment.

There have been some great moments of just what we need when we need it – like this wedding yesterday, right when little man hit the pinnacle of “I want to see my FRIENNNNNNDS” and bam! Out of nowhere, a day and a half of cousins and all the family, all at once, in a place where we slept next door to each other and had nothing to do but hang out. 

Today we were going into church, and for once I wasn’t in the band, and on the way in I was talking about Sunday School, and he said “I wanna stay with you.” So we talked about how if he wants to stay with me, he has to be quiet in big church, and he can’t change his mind a bunch of times, and all his friends are in Sunday School and they’ll color and play on the playground and play with toys… but he wanted to stay with me. So since we had the luxury of that option this time, I took him into big church.

After one song, he was just so droopy with his head on my shoulder. He looked up at me and said “I don’t want to go to this church, I want to go to our OLD church with my FRIENDS.” I thought about it for a minute and finally I just told him, you know? It is crummy, and it is hard, and I am sorry. Daddy and I miss our friends at the other church too, and I know that it’s sad. But the truth is people here are just as awesome as people there, and all of us have to work pretty hard here at the beginning, and keep showing up even when we’re kind of tired and kind of sad missing people, because we have to try to get to know them as well as we knew the other people in Dallas. It’s hard for me and Daddy too but we have to work on it so we can get to where these people are just as awesome as the Dallas people because this is where we live now. 

He looked up and saw a friend, another dad, who is quite tall, who we ate lunch with last week, all the way across the room, and perked up visibly. “Hey, I know that guy!” So I said yes, you do, and you know X and Y and Z, who will be in your Sunday School class… and he chose to go to his class. This is the first time he went in without a big to-do since we moved here, and I didn’t feel like I was peeling him off and shoving him in to get on stage on time (which makes me feel like a MONSTER). 

So we will get there! Also, we are painting basically our entire house this week while my in-laws are in town, so we are quickly making this house OURS whether it likes it or not. 

That said – be ye Houston or Dallas – come visit! Come and populate our house. If you’re new (to us), come be awkward for a minute so we can clock those hours and get to the good stuff. If you’re old (to us) our guest room is now fully furnished and will be painted within the week. I got a chalk board for the door so I can personally welcome each of you. Eventually we’ll even have a table to eat dinner on. 

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*Another phenomenon I have witnessed every time I’ve been somewhere away from home for more than about two weeks: When you hit right around that 2-week mark, you start seeing dopplegangers of everyone from back home. This even happened in Romania. It was like everyone had turned into darker-complected, dark-haired, tall thin supermodel versions of themselves, but we all at the same time started to be like “she reminds me SO much of ______.” “He looks SO much like ______.” Has anyone else experienced this?

**Tbh I’m not a huge fan of the babies-only deal in theory, sometimes, because it’s not honestly where the need is, but every single errbody recommends keeping your oldest oldest, and knowing my kid which I flatter myself that I do, I do think that would be best, so we are looking at requesting placements that are a decent bit younger than he is, maybe 2 & under? Although the first time around we asked for 7 yrs & under sibling pair and got a single 3-month-old, and while they DO respect your wishes if you stick to them, the foster system enjoys having a big guffaw at people’s ideas of how things should go, so who knows.

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Houstonian

Keeping up with cousins

Well, we have not floated away yet, so that’s good. My child is doing pretty ok as we have found plenty of indoor play places and stuff to do just getting situated. My poor dog, however, has no such luxury. I think she’s about to go stark raving.

I started out by setting a few small goals for each day so I could measure what we did. Explore a new area, get one or two or three things done like finding a place to print or mailing a package or touring a preschool, find one more viable play area for Avery, figure out something domestic like organize our stuff slightly better or do laundry, and go easy on myself about just passing time which usually I don’t like to do, but I’m setting a pretty low bar for these first days in a new place.

“Shopping”

Well, here we are just over 2 weeks in, and no major meltdowns yet, except for that one time I cried in front of the real estate agent. I figured out why there are so many real estate-related reality shows, because hello, drama. I’d watch that stuff.
So we are living in the upstairs of Dane’s aunt and uncle’s house, which I thought would be this HUGE favor and this huge imposition and a lot of dancing around each other, and it turns out it is actually very very fun. Uncle likes to play with Avery in the evenings and hide under his blanket and read him goofy books and introduce him to indy racing and golf on TV. Aunt and I have coordinated on just a few meals and she lets me talk her ear off all the time at night because I’m away from my sisters and mom and friends, and may well explode outright if I don’t. Sometimes they have stuff to do in the evenings, sometimes we do. We’ve had a couple of pizza nights, since my family is biologically programmed to demand pizza at least once a week or we start in with the tremors and hallucinations. They both work during the day, so I’m not all worried about keeping Avery out of someone’s hair or whatever. They are gracious and friendly and easy-going. It’s actually kind of perfect, and to be honest I found myself the other day a little sad about the idea of leaving.🙂
Keeping up with cousins

Keeping up with cousins

A few folks from the church have had us over or invited us swimming or out to lunch, and we are slowly but surely starting to make friends! I have already been to my first missions meeting, and barely even have the beginning of an introduction to what that will look like here, but a start is a start.
Making friends

Making friends

 We are working on relicensing but a lot of things are held up until we close on our house, which if all goes as planned, will be in just a couple weeks. I LOVE the house, by the way. It’s older but so cuuuuute and has big ole trees and a big yard and room for lots of people to come over.
I’m pretty excited about the part where we find a Place for all the Things instead of constantly looking in 18 places for something and then realizing it’s back in Dallas. But it will come, it will come.
Welp, that’s the update… I’m hoping the rain lets up long enough to let my mom come visit EVER, and also the puddles go away before, like, November, so that MAYBE we won’t all be completely consumed by mosquitos until we are sucked-dry raisin-people.
Memorial Day fun

Memorial Day fun

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Cahoots

I spent today (Mother’s Day) thinking about a lot – the fact that we’re moving tomorrow away from my own mother, and my mother-in-law, and all my friends who I have watched become mothers over the last 9-ish years…

Thinking about my own baby’s other mothers, the one who birthed him and fought tooth and nail for him and lost, the other one who had a lot of putting-back-together to do and who also fought tooth and nail for him and lost… and the other boys I’ve been mother to for 10 months or 3 weeks or 3 hours, and their mothers now.

My little man (who is so much more man-ish every day, not just in the way that his cheeks are thinning out and his pants are all suddenly capris and he is built like a pro wrestler. Mostly in the way that he gives the best trike to his cousin who is tired and not feeling well, and in the way that he stops whining and asks how he can help us get ready to move when Mommy is starting to get a little too stressed out. And in the way he has started to tell his own funny jokes and stories, not just repeating things he’s heard, and in the way he tells me repeatedly, every single day, how pretty I am and how I am the most important and I am a flower) feels more like MY little man than he ever, ever has.

Today in the car on the way to church we passed a park he went to once with my sister while I was at a meeting.

“I went to that park with Bonnie yesterday,” he said.
“You did, a while ago,” (it was at least 6 months ago…)
“I missed you, while I was at that park.”
“But I came back, right? Just like always?”
“Yeah. … I’m gonna be yours forever.”

I mean, I know, oooohhhhhh how sweeeeeeet you practically have diabetes now. And yet. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to mean it-mean it, and know it’s actually legally happening, and have the judge decree it, and have the family and the witnesses, and to make a covenant. It’s altogether another thing to have him understand it to a level that he repeats it back to me, unsolicited. I know he doesn’t know what forever is. But this is something that in our family, we don’t take for granted.

We’re packing up a car tomorrow to head down to Houston. We’re leaving a lot (LOT [LOOOOOOT]) behind, and the weight of it is pretty intense. I have some pretty dadgum deep roots in this place. We’re going into a lot (LOT [LOOOOOOT]) of exciting new possibilities, and there is a huge part of me that is so thrilled.

I can’t yet fathom going weeks at a time without a Dad Bear Hug or having his arms radiate warmth from the next chair over during a frigid church service… or going weeks at a time without being able to just come crash down at my mom’s house and send the LM off with cousins and help myself to a drink and just chill for an hour or two… but I also have seen little tiny pieces of some pretty unbelievable humans down there in Houston and I can’t wait to get to know them as well as my dear, dear friends here. There’s a church that’s growing and moving and going and I have a role there, and I’m so excited to get my hands dirty.

The thing is, though, that along with the clothes and the junk and the crap and even our sweet Penny Pooch, two men (one little and one big) are going into that car, and down I-45.

It’s fun adding to the permanents. It’s an interesting thing that whatever I do, we do, from now on. That WE are going to miss OUR friends, WE are going to make new friends, WE are finding a house, WE are packing and unpacking, WE are getting used to new house-smells and house-sounds, WE are WE are WE are. It’s duh, but it’s also pretty incredible, when you think about it. That whatever I leave and whatever I enter, I do it with these two, and I absolutely cannot imagine it any other way. Nobody else I’d want more, in my roller coaster car.

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