Thursday, August 28, 2014

Concerning Foster Care: 5 Tips for Relative Attachment

Attachment is not something I've talked about much on this blog.  But if you are a foster or adoptive parent I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that attachment issues are something we struggle with every single day.  Thankfully things have gotten much better-especially in the last six months. For those who do not understand what attachment is then watch this video by Karyn Purvis.  Also, check out some other amazing resources from Empowered to Connect.

Please Note: We are BLESSED to have the family members we have.  They have been accepting, caring, and supportive.  We know many, many families that enter their foster care journey with family members that greatly oppose them, others have opposition grown as things progress.  We are so fortunate that this has NOT been the case for us.

Attachment is a two way street.  In foster care or adopting it is obvious that your child struggles with their relationship with you.  However, for me, it was a harsh and humbling reality to realize that I struggled with a relationship with my child.  I remember the day it dawned on me that if I struggled with this then of course our family members would struggle with this.  I have a feeling that with how great our family members are (see above note), if I saw them struggling to attach to our children then there are a lot of grandparents and aunts and uncles who are in the same boat.

If you are a relative of a foster or adopted child and you are struggling with your attachment to them, please note that you are not alone.  The parent raising that child is having an extremely hard time also.  That child themselves is struggling to relate to you.  There are other grandparents and aunts and uncles who find themselves in the same situation.  Reach out.  Research.  And be willing to work at it.  It will be a blessing to these kids parents to see you try.  Here are five things you can do to strengthen your relationship with that child.

1. Find a hobby or interest of the child's and invest in it.
Does this kiddo like trains?  Take him to your local train station.  Does this child enjoy books?  Make sure you have a few when the visit your home.  Do they love to build with legos?  Sit down and build a set with them.  15 minutes of undivided attention can do wonders in helping you relate to this child.

2. Be interested in the child's life.
Know what grade they are in, find out their favorite and hardest subject.  Attend their t-ball games or call them after one to see how they did.  Understand the diagnosis they've been given and what that may look like in that child (but also know that they are more then a diagnosis).  If they are sick send them a get well card.

3. Understand why the child's parents are disciplining the way they are.
If you are a grandparent (or any relative) please know that your child is not going to discipline this child the way you disciplined them.  You may not like the way the discipline, you may not agree with it.  Before you start to tell them what they should do, find out why they are doing what they are doing.  The lack of eye contact probably isn't a respect issue, but a trust and fear issue.  That tantrum probably doesn't mean the child is a brat, but most likely stems from sadness (masking as anger) or fear.  And spanking a child probably isn't going to correct the problem.  Instead it will probably make the fear and distrust grow deeper.

4. Pray for that child. 
Ask the child's parent for specific prayer request for both the child AND for their birth family.  I find that when I pray for a changed heart in my child, my heart is most affected.  If you want to grow closer to a child become their personal prayer warrior.

5. Fake it till you make it.
Hearing this from an adoptive parent has given me permission to not always be the perfect mom.  Sometimes I don't want to love my child.  Sometimes it just seemed to hard.  However, if I can put on a smile and hug them even when I didn't want to I slowly feel the walls in my heart break down.  You may struggle to see them like the other children, born into your family.  Do NOT let them know that.  Fake the affection.  Fake the interest in their activities.  Choose to treat them equally, even when you don't feel like it.  When you couple that with prayer your love and attachment for that child will grow as the walls break down.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Morning School Routine

The school year has started. For my older kids they are already well settled.  My little ones, however, are still trying to get back in the grove but will be there soon.  We have a pretty set morning routine that our kids follow.  I guess I should say I have routine I make them follow.  So set, that I made Tony learn it because he kept messing it up and messing our whole morning up.  I'm thankful for a husband that is on board and does learn what the routine is, rather then blowing me off as a nut job. 

The basics of the routine are the same for each kid.  They must get dressed BEFORE they eat breakfast.  This has been a huge time saver for us.  I've found the kids are way more motivated to get dressed if breakfast depends on their speediness. 
As my kids have changed, each of their routines-while still holding the basic structure-have become individualized.  I've also discovered that trying to remember the details of all four routines takes up brain space that I can't afford to loose.  So this year I made up these sheets for each of the kids.  I have one to hang on each of their bulletin boards in the living room, one for the fridge, and one for each of their dressers.  In reality, I only have the living room one hung up.  Before the end of the year I promise I will have it in the other two places. 

All it took was Word and clip art I found by Googling.  I used the same images on each child's thing.  Big brothers is typed in words, not pictures, to encourage him to read more often.  A set routine has saved our mornings and gets us out the door without too much panic or yelling.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting Real: Our Decision to Public School Pt. 2

Last week I shared my heart of sending Sweet Pea to public school.  The Getting Real post focused on why I was struggling, even though this was the BEST decision for our family.  This week I was to focus of the why behind the decision.  It wasn't one reason for our decision but many little things that added to the overall picture.

Sweet Pea is a social girl.  When we would go to the school to get the twins from PreK, Sweet Pea would get out of the car just so she could stand by the school fence.  Her hope was one of the kids at recess would come up and talk to her.

I learned when homeschooling Sweet Pea for preschool that it is a lifestyle.  You have to make it the number one priority of your day.  You have to be ok not getting housework done or eating breakfast for supper, because all you did that day was school.  We have five appointments every week.  We have children when anger issues, attachment problems, disablities, and needing help with their own stuff from school.  I knew that I could not focus on the needs of my other three children and homeschool Sweet Pea the way she deserved.

At the time we made the decision Little Man and Baby Girl were going to remain in the same PreK class.  They would arrive home at 11 am, interrupting our day right in the middle of it.  They both need quit a bit of attention when they get home, so it wasn't like I could give them a hug and send them to play.  Since then we have made the decision to send one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Having one of them home while trying to focus my attention on teaching, just would not of worked.  Like I said, they both need a lot of attention.

One thing I am thrilled about, now that the twins are split, is I get to spend individual time with them.  They each have specific needs of their own that we really need to address.  We have a unique opportunity to do that before they both are in school full time.

Homeschooling is still in my heart.  I love being a part of my child's learning.  I love watching the excitement on their face.  However, at this time the best place for each of our children is in the public schools.  They have wonderful teachers and a staff that cares.  We are privileged to have that.  Maybe some day homeschooling will be part of our lives again. For now, I'm excited to see how much growth our family will make in the next year.  And I'm learning to cherish special time with each of my kids.

Why did you make the schooling decisions you did for your family?  What was the blessing in those decisions?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Getting Real: Our Decision to Public School Pt. 1

This is the last day of Big Brother and Sweet Pea's first week of school.  Last year we shared our decision to homeschool Sweet Pea (you can read about that here and here).  When I shared it I thought for sure we would be homeschooling again for Kindergarten.  In fact, Kindergarten was the one year Tony and I were 100% positive we would homeschool when we had children that age.  We weren't big fans of full day school for five year olds and Common Core seemed to cement that decision.  Yet, here we are, a fully public school family.

Last year, about a month into the school year I watched a mom linger as her son ran to his line at school.  She turned to me and said, "it's just so hard to let him go."  I smiled but inside I was judging her (I know, I know....BIG mistake).  I mean here I was sending three kids to school, was it that big of a deal?  Why did she find it so hard?  Certainly a month later she was beyond this, right?

I thought the first day would be hard with Sweet Pea.  I would cry, she would be a bit shy, then we would move on with life.  As my little girl stood like an expert in line, barely turning to wave (the wave was to the adults in general, she didn't even care where I was), I was nothing but happy.  She was excited, this is what she needed.  But then day two came around and suddenly it dawned on me, a school day is really long.  This isn't going to stop at day one.  She is going to be gone for most of the day, five days a week.

Suddenly I find myself wanting to be that mom from last year.  I wanted to linger just a bit, because this IS hard.  I just want to spend one more minute watching her, enjoying being her mom.

And even though this is hard, I have also been blown away by thankfulness.

I'm thankful that this decision was based solely on what was best for our family.  We didn't have to take into account bad school districts or horrible teachers.

I'm thankful my kids go to a school that tries to give these kids an awesome education with teachers who love and invest in them, despite diminishing budgets.  I'm thankful that each of my kids got incredible teachers, and I don't have to worry about what they will be taught all day.

I'm thankful for a small conservative town that holds pretty true to Christian beliefs.  I'm not worried about the movies my kids will watch or the amount of foul language they hear. Or many other things.

I'm thankful for this opportunity for our entire family.

I'm thankful my kids love school and are doing well in it.

Mostly I'm thankful for a God who walks me through even the hard times, even the lonely times.  Who watches over my children at school.  Who desires His best for each of us.

Next week I will talk about the WHY behind our decision.  But until then what does your children's schooling look like this year?  What are you thankful for as the year begins?

Monday, August 11, 2014

California and a Wedding

What gets my whole family out of the midwest and into sunny Califonia, why a wedding of course.  My oldest brother got married this summer to one amazing woman.  I'm so excited that she is part of our family.  God definetely brought these two together.

Sweet Pea, Baby Girl, and I headed out with my family for a week of fun, relaxation, and memories.  We visited the beach, walked around Downtown Disney, swam at the house we rented out, and enjoyed the new landscape. 

Of course, the highlight of the whole week was the wedding.  It was a beautiful God centered wedding followed by a fun dance filled reception.  The girls and I made so many memories.  I'm so thankful that we got to be their for my brothers big day.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday Big Brother

Dear Big Brother,

Today is your big day.  It is such a joy and privilege to watch you grow up.  I'm honored that this is the 3rd birthday I get to spend with you.

You have done and overcome so much this past year.  You have learned to succeed in the classroom.  You have discovered you are quit the Mathematician.  You have taught and played many bored games with your Grandparents, us, your siblings, babysitters (just about anybody who will sit down and play with you).  You've been part of a team.  You've finished an Awana book and then finished it again.  You've made good, close friends.  We are so proud of you for all of it.

You have quit a hill to overcome.  I know it's not going to be easy but each year you climb more then the year before!  You are going to be quit an extraordinary young man.  We are blessed that we get to be the ones to watch you do it!

I know you have many questions about your birth mom.  I feel so inadequate trying to answer all of them.  I wish I could be everything you need in a mom.  I wish I could have held you as an infant and sang to you.  Or been there in your scariest, darkest moment to reassure you everything would be okay.  Even though I wasn't there for the past, I want you to know that Dad and I are going to be here for all the exciting things in the future.  We will cheer you on through many sporting events and enjoy every concert.  We will cheer as you get your drivers license and cry when you graduate from high school.  We can't wait to spend every moment of it with you as our son.

I love you.  I hope your day is a wonderful one and I hope you have a great 8th year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Concerning Foster Care: Ethnecity

If you are going into Foster Care you have to answer many questions regarding the types of children you are willing to take.  Everything from their age and gender to their race and amount of needs.  A child's race or ethecity seemed like an easy question to answer.  However, looking back I realize how naive I was.  My heart and reality were not the same age.  I'm not saying we made the wrong decision when we said yes to four bi-racial children, we didn't.  I do, however, wish I had been a little more aware of my world.
If you are trying to answer the question of what ethenicity of a child is a good fit for your home here are some questions to think over.

What will that child's world of color be like when the enter your home? 
If they are going to school will it be mainly white children?  Are their children of other races at the school, if so which ones?  What will their Sunday School class or dance class or play group look like?  Will they be the only hispanic or black child in that setting?

Can you handle their hair needs?
If you bring a child of another ethnicity into your home, can you provide them with the proper hair care?  When Little Man came into our home we were not allowed to cut his hair (rights the parents hold on to).  We had a little boy with long eye lashes and big brown eyes and hair three times as long as his twin sisters.  I watched a few hours of you-tube videos to figure out how to corn row his hair.  Are you going to be able to afford the products that go in their hair?  Do you have access to them?  I've discovered how skimpy our local stores are with hair care products are for our children.  

What will the neighbors think?
I knew the town we were bringing the kids into was not very racially diverse but did have some diversity.  However, I was completely caught off guard when someone called to tell me that an associate of theirs had driven by our house and wanted to know what certain children where in our yard.  The question included a word that started with "n" and made me sick to my stomach.  We have a certain neighbor that talked to us at least once weekly for the first year we lived here and has talked to us twice in the two years since. (We have been in Foster Care for a bit over two years).

How will people of their own race feel?
Some of the harshest looks we've received have been from the black community.  Some will be incredibly supportive, others will feel like their children are being snatched away.  

What does your extended family think?
Will these children boot you out of family holidays?  While people want to know about the ______ (insert some politically incorrect way of referring to you child) you are caring for and ask you right in front of you?  Being a foster child tends to exclude these kids in the first place, they don't need their race stacked against them also.

Can you provide them with racial similar role models?
This is an area we lack in.  I see it affecting Baby Girl the most, but I think it will have an impact on Big Brother also.  Baby Girl has a lot of identity questions and problems.  I will never forget the day we walked by a woman in a restaurant and she loudly pointed out that they also had brown skin.

These questions are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the decision about whether to bring a child of a different race into your home.  Many other families are doing it, some with much success others with none, seek one out and chat with them.  If you don't know of a family find a blog online about a trans-racial family. 

Bottom Line:  These children are precious and wonderful.  I love discovering more about their race.  I love trying to figure out how to keep true to their ethnic history (such as letting Baby Girls hair go nautrual instead of braided).  However, it is WAY more difficult then I ever imagined it could be.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Swim Lessons

One of the things we try to do for our kids each summer is swim lessons.  It's such a great way to get our kids comfortable in the water.  Our small town pool only offers one on one lessons.  It's a bit more expensive but it's worth the individual time, especially with a good guard.

This year Sweet Pea, Big Brother, and Baby Girl each took lessons.  Sweet Pea definitely made the most difference from beginning to end.  She is becoming super comfortable in the water.  Big Brother is learning some great swimming techniques and can now swim a good length of the pool.  Baby Girl has been able to concentrate on better technique, such as focused and strong kicks.

Little Man has not taken lessons because of his ASD.  However, this kid!  He's quit the little swimmer.  He especially likes to imitate Daddy.  He will be self taught in no time and probably be the best swimmer of the four.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Getting Real: That Baby I "Should" Have

If you know our family or you've been on our blog for several years then you most likely know our past.  However, if you are new around here, then you might not know our history.  Within hours of Addilece's birth I was taken into emergency surgery for D&C that led to an emergency hysterectomy.  I was hemorrhaging and it saved my life.  You can read more of that story here.

We were 21 years old.  It was not only a shock to our system but to many others, as well.  A young couple, just starting their family and suddenly they're unable to have the children they have been dreaming and hoping for all their lives.

When we talked about adoption and went into foster care my heart hoped for a baby.  I'm thankful for a husband that through that time didn't shoot down that notion but also reminded me that God would place the children he desired into our home.  We were licensed 0 to 10 and while a part of me still hoped for a baby to adopt I knew deep down, that wasn't were God was leading us. We were suppose to foster older kids, which was quickly confirmed with a call that included two 2 (almost 3) year olds as the youngest children.

However, that elusive baby that we should have, we still have many people pushing for it.  They are well meaning, caring people.  It's still hard to wrap their minds around a young couple, who aren't able to have what they "want" (or rather what we used to want).  I love that people are so supportive.  However, God choosing not to give us an infant is not because God is denying us anything. 

Is a baby what will fill our family?  Make it complete?  No.  Only God can fill and complete our family.  A baby, placed in our family by my own desire and not God's, would be harmful.  Us seeking to fill our hearts on our own only creates hurt.  God must be the one to fill our hearts.  Each child he places in our home, regardless of age, is placed their for a reason.  It would be easy to justify the pursuit of a baby.  Many people would support and even encourage it.  However, without God as the center of that decision (which he is not right now), it would mean putting a burden to fill a need on a child, rather then on God.

I'm pretty sure we will never get a baby.  It's just not where God has placed us.  Would I like one? Yes.  Do I need one? No.  It's not what completes me or fills me.