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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Packing it up

SO YEAH if you managed to miss it recently, Dane has accepted a job offer in Houston and we are MOVING in about 3 weeks. So there’s that.

There are so many things recently I’ve wanted to be able to explain to people but I kind of couldn’t until we knew how things were going to play out. Honestly, this job change has been in the works for like many many moons, which is why we went ahead and pulled out of our church during his interim stint at another church, and why I vacated the Missions Chair position, because we knew that while that one wasn’t likely to be super long-term, it would probably last until another full-time job did come, so it made sense to go ahead and transition. Now, that one ended up being shorter than we expected, because they knew we didn’t want part-time for very long, and they found someone who wanted part-time indefinitely, which good for them, so we ended up BACK at church and I’m sure people were like “why did you quit all that stuff and why aren’t you picking it up again?” and now you know.

MYSTERIES UPON MYSTERIES. I know that everyone has been completely bamboozled and driven to distraction thinking about our lives and wondering why we have been making the choices we made. I know you’ve all lost sleep over this, don’t even front. So now you know.

If you may allow me to ALSO go ahead and draw that parallel to why we only had that one teeny placement in February, and then didn’t take any placements after that, because this Houston thing was already in the works and we couldn’t risk having to disrupt another placement. So after waiting SEVEN months for our relicensing, we had to wait more, and now we will have to transfer agencies. Hopefully a lot of things will transfer since it is still in-state, but I expect no less than 6 mo before we are up and running again on that front. So probably a little over a year later than we kind of hoped to be moving in this direction, but c’est la vie. 

The good news is, if we don’t love the idea of our little dude being like 4 1/2 years older than his younger sibling (I don’t know but I’d love for them to be closer), we don’t actually have to start with newborns! Adoption bonus!

But rest assured (MOM) that we are absolutely moving forward with more little ones and, God-willing, adopting again, although we will be taking foster and foster-to-adopt and adoptive placements (not all at the same time HAR HAR) so we might send a couple home before we are able to finalize again, we’ll see. 

Real talk: I am abjectly terrified of moving so far from my family and fostering again. I intend to go into our new church with pretty bald expectations for them to support us. Our current church home and our family have set the bar so super high, but that’s the beauty of moving right into the middle of another piece of the Body. This would be infinity more terrifying if we weren’t being welcomed so warmly and completely by a new church.

We’ll get to buy a house, finally, which is exciting and also quite nerve-wracking. I told Dane last night that I finally sort of pinpointed what it is that scares me about it: Any Thing that we own has the potential to end up owning us, but I feel that I have seen this be true about houses more than any other particular Thing. Houses have the potential keep you where you are longer than you want to be there, they can keep you working when you want to stay home with your kids, they can keep you from going on vacations or out to dinner with your friends. 

That and there are a lot of things people take as incontrovertible, undeniable necessities in houses that I just don’t agree – I have seen too much of the rest of the world and even the rest of this country outside of the rich suburbs, and I know what humans actually NEED, and most of the time what sales people are telling me is not it. Kids can share rooms without dying. People can (gasp!) become productive members of society without having a dedicated study space. Family members can remain tolerant of and even affectionate towards each other without seven separate recreation spaces and multiple different tv rooms. I spent several years of my married life cooking in some truly teeninsey kitchens, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t starve. I’m not saying we won’t have any “comfortable” things, I’m just saying I recognize that we don’t need them. There are times I feel like our 1,000 sq ft house we’re in now is an absolute palace, and on a global scale, it totally is. Are there times I wish I could watch a movie without monitoring the volume every 2 seconds because our boy is sleeping 18″ from the speakers? Maybe. But you know what? I’ll live.

So we were just kind of talking about how I want to set a CONSERVATIVE budget for this and then I will probably be obnoxiously rigid with whatever realtor we end up working with, because I simply will not be talked into more than I want to spend, and have it lord over me for the next 10 years. Anyway that’s my naive noobie perspective. And yes, I do put it here on purpose to hold me accountable.

Anyway we’ll let you know how that goes and then maybe this will totally turn into one of those home reno blogs when we start doing all the SUPER FABULOUS AND DIRT CHEAP upgrades we’re totally going to do (ha ha) (with all the free time we’ll have) (I’m not anticipating quitting either of my jobs actually but also kind of taking on a third) (so yeah I totally will be the DIY master).

So we are excited. All of us. Little one I’m sure isn’t 100% sure what this whole thing means yet, but neither are us 2 big ones, if we’re honest. There are pros and there are cons, but more than anything, I know it’s right. 

And the truth is, we can Facebook and FaceTime and text and call and visit. We’ve already scoped out camp grounds halfway between there and here to meet up with family and friends on weekends. We’ll make so many new friends and new connections, and I’m so excited to know and love MORE people as well as we have known and loved people here the past 9 or past 31 years, depending on how you look at it.

I’ll be honest though – the one thing that just eats my lunch is this right here:

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This is where I start to feel like the biggest black-hearted traitor because not a one of the 3 of them understands that they’re about to go from playing together like 3-4-5x/week, being the inseparable trio, to periodic visits and (FREQUENT!!) FaceTime calls.

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Let’s not even get INTO grandparents. Alllllll of them.

Maybe they’ll always just pick up where they left off.

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But we do what we need to do, right? Just please God help them always love each other like this:

Cousins

(I mean, a TAD less pushing and grabbing and shirt-pulling and screaming COULD be appreciated at SOME point, but what’s lemonade without a few lemons??)

Posted in Fostering, Posts by Abbey

Good Friday

Last year I wrote a blog post called Tenebrae. It was about the things I was believing would die on Good Friday, and the things I was believing would get up and go out, Sunday morning. I stand by that.

But I have a somewhat different perspective now.

A friend asked me recently what Good Friday and Easter actually mean, actually to me, actually now, in 2015. 

I think it’s in Radical [look, if y’all expect me to actually start researching and citing my sources you’re going to have to get me some ad revenue or something #realtalk] where David Platt talks about how countless people besides Jesus were crucified, including some of his own apostles. Countless people have been martyred in other ways, some far more violent or cruel. And some of them never even sweated blood, or asked that the “cup be taken” from them. So does that make Jesus less brave than those people? Platt contends (and this made more sense to me than I had ever quite understood it before) that Jesus wasn’t facing death, or I mean he was, but he was also facing the wrath of God and the consequence of every sinful choice throughout human history and human future (if that’s a phrase). That’s why you see the unshakeable Jesus… frankly kind of freaking out. But never failing to submit.

Anyway, I look around me at things I’ve become more aware of than I was as I was growing up, and know I’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface. The hot mess that is the foster care system. My own kids’ stories, to be frank. The broken families affected, the stories I hear, the people I have met. Abuse. Addiction. Generational cycles. Poverty. Precious littles with FAS, PTSD, SPD, etc. Depression. Racism. People being hateful in the name of Jesus himself. Divorce. People being utterly devalued by others until they are devalued by themselves. Trafficking. ISIS. Boko Haram. And I don’t want to pretend like it has to be things that look so “extreme” on paper — my temper, my selfishness, my laziness, the wounds I inflict on my friends and family, and myself. My greed and materialism. My friends who believe the promises of the world and find themselves so isolated, hurt, disillusioned. 

If you’re not horrified by the effects of sin* in the world, you’re not paying attention. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s reasonably possible in this day and age to isolate ourselves from it, but make no mistake: Past a certain age it’s a willful ignorance. 

And I simply believe that the more you are horrified by the effects of sin, the more you are remotely capable of understanding what redemption means, and what Easter means. 

There are battles I hope to get up and fight every day – to be part of the redemption of my kid’s life, of my own life… the constant daily breaking and redemption of my marriage – making Dane and myself into what we were created to be… giving the orphan a home and a family and a name, teaching love and joy and peace where there was dissension and anger and fear… feeding the suffering hungry… freeing the oppressed… loving the lonely…

And the truth is, some days I don’t see how I could EVER lose, fighting these battles. The only way I could lose is to stop, because the winning is in the fighting.

But the truth ALSO is, that some days, and often even the same days, I know that we will NEVER EVER win these battles. 

So that’s what Good Friday means – every kid crying out unheard in the middle of the night, every girl locked in a brothel, every martyr beheaded on video – that’s what made Jesus sweat blood. That’s what he faced, felt, carried. All of it.

And on Easter – he BEAT IT. He won. 

He didn’t just get up from being dead. Lazarus did that. That one dude’s daughter did that. If that’s all you think Easter is, you’re missing out.

Listen – I won’t win, in my lifetime, nor will anyone else, in anyone else’s lifetime – but as long as we are part of the redemption effort, the surge of troops, we also can’t lose… but we come at it every day knowing that it’s already won. In the end, and in the beginning and outside of time – it’s already won.

I can try to help my kid face demons and drop baggage placed on his little life before he was ever born, and I will get up every day and do the work set out for me, but I will also know ultimately that all of that died… and He rose.


* FYI – by “sin” I mean when people make choices that are not in line with the ways that God teaches us to live for “the life that is truly life.”

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Blame Game

I have a friend who said this phrase one time that Dane and I have totally adopted, usually tongue-in-cheek.

“I reject your yoke of judgment.”

Which was my instant fav.

Ohhhhh, Mommy Wars. Or whatever. How many people have written blogs about Mommy Wars? From this side, from that side, from the middle, from neither side but just ABOUT the Mommy wars, etc.?

Here’s my take, though. I think that it basically all comes down to fear. It’s all control, which is all about fear. And I am as guilty as anybody, for sure. Here’s the thing. We argue about what we should or shouldn’t feed to our children or withhold from our children. We argue about where we should send them to school or where we should not send them to school. We talk about how we should discipline them or ways we should absolutely under no circumstances discipline them. 

I have read so many posts, books, articles, journals, etc., like probably literally HUNDREDS, about parenting, especially of toddlers (for obvious reasons) and with very few exceptions, they are all basically like adding another 10-lb weight to my back. Every single one. 

You know why? And maybe this is just my defensive nature, but the thing is, I RARELY, like as in ALMOST NEVER, find articles that offer suggestions without assigning awful, horrible consequences if you should choose a different “method” or practice. 

Like, “If you parent my way, your child will respond in THIS exact way and reap benefits for years to come; and if you do not, you are literally-not-literally driving a huge wedge between you and your child and causing them irreversible psychological damage.” And then they all contradict each other, so that I’m left feeling like no approach is safe.

Well you know what? I reject your yoke of judgment.

Here’s the thing. I did not make my kid. Even those of you who biologically birthed your child, you did not MAKE your child either. You took some actions (bow-chicka bow-wow) and had a little bit more control over the physical-biological process than I did, but you still didn’t MAKE your kid. I don’t know anyone who was capable of personally causing cell multiplication and the instigation of an actual Self, including individual will and personality. You didn’t do it, and you still can’t. You can’t MAKE them anything.

I read an article recently about kid freedom, basically, like how kids used to have these whole worlds where they just ran around and made tree houses and played games in the neighborhood, and now a kid is likely to have something like less than 5 minutes of un-supervised time in their first, like, 10 years of life. It talked about the difference in the way playgrounds are made – not for fun or function but for SAFETY, which nowadays usually results in playgrounds with very little fun to actually be had.

It was basically talking about how 40+ years ago, fear of things like kidnapping or major injuries from playing or illness etc. – those things were actually more likely to happen than they are today, but FEAR of those things today is like exponentially higher. The things occur considerably less nowadays, but we fear them considerably more.

And a big difference, it said, was a shift in thinking about blame. Back then, if your kid fell out of a tree and broke his leg, people said “oh no, what a terrible accident, I’ll bring you some cookies.” Now they say “What kind of parent allows their child in that kind of environment???” 

Back then, if a child was kidnapped, people said “That is a HORRIBLE unforeseeable event, perpetrated by a horrible kidnapper.” Nowadays, they say “What kind of parent lets their kid walk home from school unattended???”

There’s an ILLUSION, dear readers. An illusion that is our job to control every single eventuality in our kids’ lives.*

There’s an illusion that nowadays, if a child grows up to rebel, behave badly, choose blue-collar work and quit school, reject faith, whatever other TERRIBLE unspeakable outcomes we can think of – that we parents should have done something differently. 

And along with that comes a very dangerous illusion as baby/toddler parents that the actions we take now (putting them in this school, choosing this disciplinary method, starting with this sport or those lessons, limiting TV to this much per day, supplements, dietary choices, home preschool curriculum…..) are FOR SURE going to set our children up to follow the exact path we want for them.

I believe in science, don’t get me wrong. But I also believe in something bigger than that – something sacred, or human, or both, or something. I do believe all humans were made in the image of God, and in foster care training I have learned about SO many unbelievable ways that humans find ways to heal and cope in less-than-ideal circumstances. I hear it over and over again: “Kids are resilient.” Kids have been growing up into Einsteins and Picassos and Apostle Pauls and Roosevelts Augustines and Mother Teresas for centuries without 8,000 interventions found on articles posted on Facebook.

I also believe that humans have an undeniable inherent tendency towards “human” wants that need to be mastered by discipline (self- or parent- in young years) – we innately crave foods that are bad for us, activities that are “fun” but destructive, and we always have a selfish desire first that might be “evolutionarily significant” or whatever but also makes you an a**hole unless you learn how to master it.** 

We think we can control enough factors and make our children, and we are making ourselves God, you guys. They have wills of their own, because they are human. They have depths we will never ever ever fathom, because they are made in the image of God.

Matt Chandler talked about this once in terms of faith – he can lay the kindling, keep it dry, establish an environment that is conducive to his kids adopting his faith, but he personally will never be able to make it happen. We can certainly do the best we can to set our kids up for whatever success, but we can’t be God, and in trying we are crushed by the weight of it.

We try to control everything, and we jump to the defense of our chosen methods while lambasting opposing ones, we “research” every tiny aspect of our children’s lives (while there is totally identically legitimate science to back up any one of a billion opposing views), because the world now looks at us and blames parents for any less-than-ideal outcome, and we are afraid.

Control, because of fear.

Well, I reject your yoke of judgment. Kids are different. Moms and dads tend to know best, because they know their kid. Same friend as before once told me “Parent from love. Trust your gut. Apologize when you mess up. Don’t overthink it.” Which is the best advice ever. Make choices based on love for your child, and on the gospel (which includes grace AND justice). Listen to other people’s advice, weigh it and measure it against what you know of your own kid, and take it or leave it. Know that you’ll mess up because you’re a human being. 

And for goodness sake, chill. 


*Do we be careful, and use knowledge and information to our advantage? Obviously. But do we drown ourselves in this STUDY and that ARTICLE until we are effectively paralyzed and hyper-judgmental of everyone else? How bout no.

**Sorry, Ayn Rand. Some of your people might turn into great architects or whatever but unless they also happen to be freakishly brilliant, they probably just get fired from jobs a lot and have no friends.

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Because I Care

For your edification and reading pleasure, I have here compiled for you (JUST for you):

How to Be Prepared when Waiting for Foster Placements: [subtitle] Things They Don’t Tell You

1. Step on a Crack 

Supermans. Dead lifts. Whatever it is you gotta do for that lower back. Holy moly, chilt. Do some crazy yoga nonsense. Boat pose or whatever it is. Bulk that sucker up. Then flip it on over and do some baby pose, rock it back and forth. Child’s Pose. Stretch out that lumbar. You could well go from None Pounds of holding a human for hours at a time at a spine-cracking angle – to Upwards of Twenty-Five Pounds… OVERNIGHT. Get thee ready.

2. Locked & Loaded

Go to your local gym or fitness-outfitted aquatic center. Find some free weights; maybe start with the smaller dumbbells and work your way up to those big like 45-lb disc things that the bald-veiny-headed dudes are always moving around. Stand, feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Do half of a bicep curl with your weight balanced on your left arm. Hold it at the top. Hold it. Hoooooold it. Hoooooooooooooooold it. Keep your arm at a 90 degree angle, parallel to the ground, for approx 60-180 min. For realism, tiiiilt those shoulders back, jutting hips forward (you know, the OPPOSITE of mountain pose), simulating the nice shoulder shelf you will provide for tired or don’t-want-to-walk or sleeping-soundly-but-screaming-when-you-put-them-down babes. If you are about to die, relief may be momentarily provided by the right hand, although the right hand will usually be needed irl for things like cooking dinner, attending to other children, getting some work in on your laptop, folding laundry, or administering soggy goldfish crackers and lukewarm tea into your own neglected maw. Calf raises and a salsa-adjacent rock-back-and-forth dance step thing are also helpful. Ignore the folks staring in the gym as sweat pours down your forehead and you’re still standing there through half of Kelly & Michael and a full episode of Supernatural on the overhead screens. They don’t know your life.

3. Oh, and about those goldfish crackers…

Goldfish crackers and bananas. Hard currency in kid world. Worth their glycemic index in gold. The number of children who have been brought from “WTF IS GOING ON WHERE AM I WHAT IS THIS WHO ARE YOU” to “Ok, ok, I’m pickin up what you’re layin down, I think we might have something to work with here” over a bowl of goldfish crackers and a few banana slices is….. probably not a number known by modern mathematics. And you will want ANYTHING to get that blood sugar going, telling that sweet little brain that at least on this particular front, it might not die today. For real. Priceless. It’s only the tiniest start, but you may well find yourself like OMG WHERE DO I START. So here you go.

4. The Fetch-Squat

Again, at your neighborhood gym. Find a 30-ish-lb weight of some shape. Again, jut hips forward and shoulders back until various things start popping. Then, using a form that absolutely precisely NO health professional has ever in the history of the world condoned much less recommended, and without remotely adjusting the awkward angle of your top half, squat down (slowly, slowly, smooooothly, you wouldn’t want to cause any discomfort to anyone) as though picking up something off the floor. For realism, you may bring a small bag of props to drop on the floor – such as pacis, blankets that you are trying to use to put the child to sleep, your iPhone, noise-making toys that you are 100% guaranteed to step on in the dark ensuring the angry rousing of your child, etc. If your knees pop like the dickens, nobody cares. Unless it is loud enough to wake OH I DON’T KNOW SAY a human child. There’s always time, later on, to get a job with decent enough health benefits to be able to afford knee surgery. You’ll be fine.

5. The Carrying of Alllllll the Stuff

Bring out your duffels, your backpacks, your diaper bags you have in waiting. Fill them with all of the things. All of them. Every actual thing. Fill them and fill them some more. The purses. (The black-friendly one your stuff is IN as well as the brown-friendly one your sweater matches with.) The reusable shopping bags. Fill them, and lift them. Hike them up onto the forearms and shoulders. Now it’s your hands’ turn. A sippy cup or two, your own tea mug, the piece of construction paper signifying the Sunday School craft that you don’t want piling on the floor of your car, the stuffed dog that became completely and utterly indispensable at the very last second on the way to the car, the toast you’ve been trying to eat for the past 45 minutes, the jacket he won’t put on but you know he’ll need once you get where you’re going, the bike he swore up and down he wanted to ride until you got to the actual farthest geographical point away from your house, on your walk. And carry that stuff. Carry it though your arms wobble and your hair flies into your eyeballs and mouth in the wind. Carry it though your child runs the precise opposite direction of the car and you are enticing him with threats you could not possibly carry out in your current state. Carry it all.

And then try to find your keys.

6. And When the Call Comes…

Take a shower. NOW. Now now now. God knows when the next time is that you’ll be able to take a shower. When CPS showed up at our door last Friday morning at about 4:30, Dane had literally half of his neck shaved as we signed the papers. He was getting ON it. Next, eat a meal, and drink a large glass of water. It might not be that big of a deal. Honestly in the past few cases, it’s not that circumstances actually prevented us from doing these things, it’s just that you’re kind of standing around thinking of things to do and doing the things and thinking there must be more things to do, for like, ever, and you just kind of forget basic things like hydration and nourishment. Or maybe that’s just me.

7. Super Spy

Get some ginormous sunglasses. Maybe some hats. A zoom lens for your iPhone camera. Brush up on your Facebook/Google stalking skills. Good times are to be had dropping off and picking up at visits. Scoping the parking lot for likely candidates for bio parents, and nonchalantly circling the lot until they’ve disappeared inside. Sneaking a pic over the dash while pretending to read a book, so you can text it to your husband. Sitting in the waiting room to pick the little dude up and mastering the look of “Nope, not a foster parent, but if I was, and if you were the bio parent, I’d be so nonjudgmental and approachable and totally not placing myself in opposition to you, because like I’m totally on your team.” “But also I might leave the parking lot in the exact opposite direction of my house and drive around a couple other parking lots just in case you’re trying to see where I’m going.”

And some other things to look forward to:

8. The Firsts 

They all happen at once. The first time he takes a nap successfully. The first time you realize Oh crap, this kid can walk, he just didn’t want to for like the entire first day. The first smile, which is possibly like 2 days after he arrives. The first time he puts his little head down on your shoulder and heaves a big sigh. The first time he makes a basket (with a basketball, not with like softened reeds), or sits up, or sings the entire lyrics front to back of Let it Go, or whatever it is that you had no idea they could do until they did it, but it’s like a year’s worth of firsts that you get to celebrate in like 3 days.

9. The Patterns

And on the other end, there’s the week where you’re trying to find a pattern in ANYTHING. Well, he napped at 11 this day but he had been up the entire night before, and then the next day he napped at 1, but then the next day he only slept in the car and then wouldn’t go down again, so maybe he “normally” naps at like, noon-ish? Do we take an average? Median? Twice he ate turkey, but that one time he spit it out? The two nights out of the past five he slept through the night, and on those nights we brushed teeth AFTER bath, and used essential oils, but one of those nights we read 2 books and the other night we read no books, so what’s the magic combo? We’re like superstitious bowlers. If anything goes right you try to replicate it with neurotic attentiveness.

Good times, guys. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to miss out on this gorgeous process. And this is only really our third placement. Veteran foster parents – what am I forgetting?

Posted in Uncategorized

Sharing the Love

In 8-ish short hours, our new placement will have been here a week! He is a snuggly, cuddly, quiet, compliant little thing. Even after he kind of “woke up” out of the shock and exhaustion of the first few days. He is silly and loves to explore. He eats like a teenager (both of mine do!) He is a child who (miracle upon miracle) prefers to drop his little head on your shoulder and snuggle close when he gets ridiculously tired (like say when his Big Foster Brother [BFB] sabotages his nap on purpose multiple times OH I DON’T KNOW JUST HYPOTHETICAL), this instead of increasing in pinball-iness and chimp-on-caffeine-itude until he is leaving human-shaped dents in walls and appliances and his eyes are actually turning into those spinning spirals like hypnotists use, like SOMEONE ELSE I KNOW.

In truth, however, our dude [BFB] was an ANGEL of compassion and thoughtfulness and Big-Boy Pride in all the things he could do! and help with! for the first oh… 72 hours. Then he was kinda normal. Then he has become slightly-or-maybe-entirely unhinged in the past 2 days. I imagine we’ll level out at kind of an average of all of those things.

I have this belief, though, that I have long held, and particularly with our permanent little man, that siblings are just HEALTHY. I mean, maybe there are a lot of kids/humans capable of more others-centered-ness or who can actually comprehend any piece of their world not revolving solely around themselves, without a sibling. I am certain that there must be. But I feel like siblings helped me in that way, and I have long thought that another body around the house with needs and desires and feelings that he can see more up close and personally, would be good for my particular ball-of-fire-who-often-firmly-believes-he-is-the-sun-at-the-center-of-the-universe.

I sincerely plan on feeding his wild imagination and astronomical dreams, and all of that, and the endless possibility and potential that lies in that brilliant and creative and lightning-intense head of his. YET. I also relish the opportunities that I have that I can simply say “We cannot buy that toy, because we do not have the money for it.” “You need to wait just a minute, because I have to get the baby’s food ready.” “You may pick any other toy, but you cannot have the one the baby has JUST because the baby has it.” “You may not scream in the car right now, not because I am simply mean and evil, but because baby is sleeping as you can clearly see, so that’s just that.” A child needs parameters. Limits. Some things that just Are, and that’s What It Is. You simply don’t control it. Those are often the only rules my child follows with any consistency. Like “You can’t take your seatbelt off while we are driving, it’s not my rule, it’s the policemen’s rule. There’s nothing I can do.”

He is having to become aware of another human being’s needs, and while there are definitely some growing pains in that process, I am confident that it is going to benefit him in the long run. The closest he ever gets is with his cousins because he is simply around them enough to have them crystallize in his mind into human beings, whose feelings he does not want to hurt, whose tears he (usually) does not want to cause, whereas most other humans are kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda… obstacles. Props. In a totally age-appropriate way, I believe.

Anyway he asks where the baby is when he’s not in the room. He told our specialist today that the baby is his “best friend.” He told Daddy on the way home from school that he can’t wait to go home because that’s where Mommy and the baby are. He is enjoying this process, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like some cruel immersion therapy in relative neglect. But I have been looking forward to the part where I get to have this new major experience to teach him, and to have just another element in our house all day that is neither him nor his mommy who exists to entertain and meet every felt need. There is someone else who needs from me sometimes, in ways that he can fully relate to, and he can begin to understand being patient or needing to, like, just get in the car instead of having an entire battle every single time, because I now have another human and a ton of gear and I just simply can’t. With the battles.

He asks all the time, “Why did the baby come to our house?” and I get to say “He needs a safe, loving place to be until it is safe for him to go back to his family. He needs love and a bed and a mommy and daddy and yummy food and fun things to play with and people to teach him, and we have all of those things so we are sharing them with someone who needs them.” We rehearse versions of this conversation all the time, recently. I so, so, so desperately want to teach him, even at not quite 3 1/2, about sharing what we have with people who need it. What better way?

Brothers from another mother

am, however, constantly on the lookout for ways to inadvertently reassure him about how the baby might (and probably will, at this point) go back to his mommy and daddy, but he will always stay…without exactly saying that. You don’t want to go making some statement like “He might go home, but you will NEVER leave!” because in his tiny little mind, I’m not sure if he ever even thought of the possibility, and even in stating it in the negative, I would’ve now planted that picture in his head. So I keep talking about how even though he’s big, he’s still MY baby, and he’ll be my baby even when he’s bigger than me, and even when he is a daddy and has his own baby. Or when we’re talking about how this baby might leave, I’ll talk about what we as our family might do after that.

I know people are terrifically concerned about this idea with permanent kids, and how it might affect them. Well, we said goodbye to one baby about 5 weeks after our son came to us, and he asked a few questions, but I’m not sure how much it RATTLED him. He was even less capable of comprehending Other Persons than he is now. Who knows what this or future placements might do, what effect they might have, but we’re trying to communicate as well as we know how.


* 18 mo! What! It will be though, on 3/2!

Posted in Posts by Abbey

Imago

Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking lately. It’s about to get fairly personal, but like, some things are just so universal I don’t know why we try to hide them all the time. We’ve all been through health class. And if you can relate, awesome, and if you can’t, maybe you can a little better after reading this, relate to other people I mean, so what harm is there in being honest?

Anyway, I have been wondering, what if this month is different. If you know what I mean. Because as many times as I try to tell myself to just move forward and quit dwelling, every month, I do. I keep wondering, what if it’s different. What if this is why it took so long to get our license? What if it’s all providential timing of some sort?

But the thing is, I have been thinking a smidge, what if I DID get pregnant. (FUN FACT: I’M NOT. But the possibility remains… a possibility. As it has been for five full years, so let’s not hold our breath.)

Lovely, well-intentioned people always alllllllways have a story of somebody who got pregnant after adoption, or after starting the process moving forwards toward adoption, like “once you let go of the idea it so often just HAPPENS!!!!!” Yaaaaaaay. But the thing is, if that were to happen, it would be SO important for me, and it’d be hard for me not to just like blast this across the universe in a really passive aggressive way, to tell people DO NOT act like this is so much better than adopting again. Don’t act like we were rescued from doing it “the hard way” by having this happen “the easy way.” Don’t you dare dare DARE act like we should be so grateful that we conceived rather than adopting again. I’m going to be honest – I will be happy if it happens, because obviously, but I will have a hard time being happy in public, because it will be so hard for me to communicate to people about just how/why I’m happy and the ways that AREN’T how/why. We honestly wanted to adopt before we ever even tried the “old fashioned way.” We thought we might do both, or we’d just see. Maybe we’re weird that way. And the more we’ve learned about adoption, and the more God has taught us himself, the more we’ve wanted to do it.

I don’t think anyone would say this but in their minds they’d halfway think Now she won’t have to go through what she went through again. And it’s hard to convey, because I have whinged and moaned worse than anyone on the planet and I was trying to be truthful and I was (truthful), but I don’t know – it’s like it’s not even related.

A future fetus (if it were to come to pass) is a person, and our son is a different person. And whatever person might be placed in our home, temporarily or permanently, through foster care this go-round, is another person. As for me, I cannot value these people differently. I cannot act like one is better than the other. I genuinely cannot. I cannot back-bend my brain into trying to think of a person with Dane’s and my genetics as in some way superior to whatever other person we might have the privilege to parent. I would not be, like, grateful about it; it would be one path versus another.

Here’s the thing. I used to be freaked out by the idea of Heaven, because infinity is unbelievably, (to me) oppressively incomprehensible, and I think in the back of my mind there was an aspect of monotony, because what could there possibly be in actual existence that would not get old, when given infinite time?

And the answer is – God. Right? Basically? And in another sense, people, who are made in the image of God, except God is infinite, so there are infinity people, all with a crazy slew of collections of characteristics. Like, to put it in a slightly-less-abstract although still-technically-impossible way, what if we thought of God as basically every possible combination of genetic code. (Except he’s even more infinite than that.) And think about the ways that genes plus environment and experiences make people so unimaginably varied, and God is basically just ALL of those things, but uncorrupted and unblemished, and then some, and you could literally spend eternity exploring it all.

But you can start now, and you’ll continue then, with exploring the infinite combinations of traits and qualities and surprising, fascinating, heart-breaking, frustrating bits and pieces that make up us.

I hope that the rest of my life is just exploring that, basically. Making friends in elementary school, traveling to Europe in 5th grade, watching my sisters grow up, liking boys, seeing people hurt and left out and bullied and hurting for them myself and too often not doing anything about it, traveling to Costa Rica in high school, studying anthropology and psychology and history in college, studying racial politics and an entire class in college on what made average German citizens reach the point of committing Nazi atrocities (= humanizing the villains), working in jobs, always trying to make new friends, traveling, traveling, traveling, meeting these infinitely varied human messes, watching, learning, asking, listening, loving.

So far, in my personal life, this has almost kind of culminated in fostering and adopting. The ultimate up-close study, to put it dryly, except it’s anything but dry. Watching a total stranger, a tiny lump of barely-able-to-cry, unable-to-communicate, squishy helpless mass, develop into such a fascinating, strong, hilarious little human. Learning more and more about his family, his background, how people get to where they are. And then another total stranger, another set of incredibly complex circumstances bringing him to where he was, and then to where he is now, and none of which can remotely account for the him-ness of him.

How much of God is in every person, each of whom was made in his image? What causes that to be broken, desolated, distorted, suffocated? How can we find it, and honor it, and be part of the redemption process, to bring it back out?

It’s hard to see the world this way and I fail allllllllll the time. It’s something I want to work on until the end of my days, whenever that is. Looking for the image of God in every human. This perspective has shaped my ideas about current US politics, about church structure, about TV shows I try to watch, about ISIS and Boko Haram, about the other moms sitting by me at the Chick Fil A playground.

And definitely about babies, namely which ones do and don’t become a part of our family. I just can’t have some mental rubric, or like one method of family addition that’s “better” than another. But don’t you dare hear me say that adoption is the only way to do this. That’s absurd.


*It should be noted here that adoption/fostering IS a big investment. There are definitely those who fight and fight hard for biological children and certainly invest precious personal resources in other facets of ministry, and I am not even remotely trying to presume to denigrate that, in any sense. If your reaction to this is “You don’t know my life!” then my answer is “Nope – I really certainly don’t.” Please don’t take this as any type of criticism, I am just attempting to address the innate value of human life, and I am not ignorant or ridiculous enough to think that no one but adoptive parents is capable of seeing that. We have personally come so far in this process and obviously already added to our family through adoption, and to me we’re already a part of this world, so for us it’s so clearly set on a level playing field – bios vs. adoption.

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