Our Heartbeat

Months ago, my friend and kindred spirit (fellow INFJ/introvert raising and extrovert/lover of Jesus, of learning, and of Jane Austen), Melissa Droegmueller, from Rolling Prairie Readers asked me to share my heart for fostering and adopting. The mission of fostering as a family has become the heartbeat of my life, or more accurately, my family’s life. We’ve been at it for almost four years now! In that time, we have fostered four little ones; one went home to Grandma, one joined our family forever, and two are currently teaching us a thing or two about the unbreakable bond of sisters. Speaking of currently, this what our family looks like today: one mama, one papa, one miracle brought to us biologically, one miracle brought to us through adoption, two miracles brought to us through foster care, and two dogs – by far the most needy of our children. Then there are the extensions…more miracles: our beloved Randee (Denver’s biological mamacita – we love her like a daughter) and Sugar Pea (our foster daughters’ brand new baby sister.) Yep, fostering makes like messy…deliciously messy…like a HUGE chunk of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Mmmmm. Messy. But I digress…mmmm, chocolate.

When Phil and I started this fostering journey, we jumped in blindly, simply following a tug that we both felt on our hearts. Through the support and help of our church and its outstanding foster/adopt support group, we have grown and learned from the best. It is no doubt the influence of other folks on the front lines of fostering who have shaped and focused our vision. Our vision has shifted from loving on children to loving on families and helping them heal.

Now, before you get the wrong idea about me, know this…my heart and my parenting is as imperfect as the next person’s. In fact, I am not what one would call “a kid person.” As a people, they are noisy and messy…and they get in my introvert space. My methods of parenting are not always stellar, like that one time I banged a sippy cup of milk on the table yelling, “Stop screaming! Stop screaming! Stop screaming!” So, there’s that. Nonetheless, the beauty of fostering is, I am enough. Full of faults. I am enough to change a life.

Every family story is unique, and our is no exception. I have documented so much of our journey right here on my blog. And since it’s summer, I’m taking it easy and simply linking the heck out of this article. You may read as much or as little as you desire, by clicking on your topic of interest.

Thank you for your interest in fostering! I pray you are blessed by what you discover here. If you have questions, contact me. Looking forward to hearing from you.

That time we knew we could not NOT foster.

That time we decided to risk Eden’s heart in order to foster.

That time we realized fostering was not safe for our hearts, but it was good.

That time I dropped off Denver for her first visitation with Randee.

That time I fell in love with Randee.

That time Denver was relinquished to us.

That time our hearts melted with the beauty of watching Denver interact with Randee.

That time we realized we were the second choice.

That time we realized we had a heart for bio moms.

That time we expanded our family from four to six…overnight.

That time we counted the cost of fostering for the third time and how it could affect Eden and Denver.

That time we saw the Pea’s mom for the first time.

That time we realized God was growing us up a bit…shaping and humbling us.

 

You Know Better!

One of the delights and heartache of parenting is hearing your words come out of your children’s mouths. It cracks me up every time I hear Eden say, “No ma’am!” to her sisters who are being stinkers. However, these phrases…not so much, “You know better!” the worst being “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

Sigh. The beauty and wonder of this parenting gig is the chance to launch these kids into the world as a powerful source of love and light. But first, oh first…our own hearts need healing…so that the words that come out are a balm…not a vat of boiling oil. Ahem.

The deal with Eden’s words of admonishment…nay…condemnation toward her sisters, well, those words are my self-talk phrases…the very voice of self-condemnation. It makes me sad that the voice in my head and heart is so harsh…and it encourages me to be more gentle with myself. Cause like it or not, when I get squeezed, that is the voice that spills out of my mouth…out into the world…all over my spouse and my children. I want my words to bring life and not death.

And so, I endeavor to soften my responses to my own short-comings. Let’s see how this goes! Social experiment #921…in play. This should be good.

 

Our New Happy Place

I am a planner…a five-year plan is my happy place. Well, it used to be. Life has a way of humbling us…and the thought of mapping out where I think we should be in five years has become a bit comical. Take the month of May, for example. Today is April 22. Within the next thirty days we will either say goodbye to our Peas; say hello forever to our Peas; just hang out with the Peas a bit longer (til the next court date); perhaps take on a additional Pea…as one is cooking and is due in May; AND welcome a new family member for a spell. So, uh, plans are really…not…ummm…conducive to our current way of life.

This kind of “uncertainty” is our new normal. And though it is true for all of us, we are keenly aware that we have no idea what the future holds. But our hope for our future is secure…because it now rests on the unchangeable shoulders of a good God. And that space of faith is our new happy place. Trusting the One who is immovable, unchangeable…and good. We feel such certainty that all will be well. All will be well. This place of peace beats the pants off a five-year plan.

D is for…oh…Dang!

We do a weekly memory verse from the Bible. Recently I got some ABC Bible verse cards. They are très cute! AND ABC’s? Come on…perfection for this current age.

Well, this morning I pulled out D. For my own amusement, I try to guess the verse and then do a grand reveal. I had settled comfortably on “Delight yourself in the Lord,” when BOOM! I was hit with “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14.) And if you can’t tell by my complaining about drawing this winner, I’ll say it clearly. I speak fluent complaint. No? Not clear? I complain. A lot. It is a sensitive area of weakness for me. I despise my complaining…and yet I persist. I have a lot to say about this struggle…about embracing myself as is…as Jesus does. Accepting my limitation…without condemning myself…while hoping for better. But that is another post.

And so, I’m a bit panicked. This will be an interesting week, and I hope to write through this struggle…speaking the gospel to both my children and to myself. The gospel here…I am a broken woman and God has asked me to raise children…and teach them stuff about behaving as decent human beings. I am a broken woman…both beautiful and terrible…full of love and compassion…and venom and judgement. I get some things right and some things wrong. And God asks me to teach…to teach my kids “to do everything without complaining or arguing” though I am the chief complainer. The gospel? I am loved. And I cannot keep this command. But I am loved. And I will teach them. And my girls will not be able to keep this command. And they will be loved. 

Now, Jesus…help me keep a straight face as I introduce my girls to this verse. Open up the discussion of my inability to do this non-complaint thing…and my comfort and hope. You are making me new. You are making my heart new. You forgive my failures, and though You call me to a standard I cannot keep, You adore me. Thanks, buddy.

 

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Sweet Pea — Eight Months

The girl is on fire! She wants to get up and go, go, go with her older sisters. On top of that, I highly suspect she…much like her beloved Eden…is an extrovert. Though my snuggly-wuggly wee babe has been replaced with this go-getter, Sweet Pea has retained her sweet, gentle, contented yumminess. Everything she does feeds my soul with such peace and joy.

At eight months, Sweet Pea:

  • sits up. All on her own. Just like she’s been doing it her whole life. Oy.
  • wants to play ALL day. She down to only two good naps a day. And so it begins…or rather, ends.
  • holds her own bottle.
  • experienced her first camping trip. She happily played out in the “woods,” mouthing sticks, rocks…any bit of nature she could grasp in those beautifully chubby hands.
  • eats crackers. Sniff, sniff. Crackers. There’s no turning back now.
  • takes a bath in the bathtub now. Oh, this girl! Soooo fast! She’s growing up so fast!!
  • says “dah-dah-dah,” which is great and all. And to be fair, it was her first utterance. But hearing “muh-muh-muh-muh” makes me giddy. Giddy.
  • is everywhere! She is officially crawling. And nothing is beyond her. Sigh.
  • can drink from a sippy cup.
  • lights up the room…not only with her smile, but with her sweet spirit.

Denver — Two and Ten

Oh Denver! She is so funny and fun and absolutely infuriating…all rolled into a jumpy, squirmy, giggly girl. Currently, she loves to tell people, “I’m two!” And boy, is she. But not for long…which makes my heart ache a bit. She’s not a baby…or a toddler. She is a little girl…so full of fun. This one, she’s our party waiting to happen. Whew.

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At two years and ten months, Denver:

  • talks and talks and talks. I just love it. Granted, her “monologues” are often a combination of fact and fantasy…I love the way she weaves the two together seamlessly. However, this often makes it tough to get the gist of her message. Is she just talking…or is she trying to communicate?
  • cries so very, very, very much. It is the age of her emotions being so much bigger than her ability to cope. Anyhoo, we work on identifying her feelings. The one she has down…no problemo…is “I am so FRUST-ER-RATED!!” And she is. The girl passes in and out of frustration all day almost as much as her mama.
  • dresses herself. Her clothing preferences include anything that is Eden’s. And so it starts.
  • she is the first one “out” in the quiet game. Every. Single. Time. She cannot seem to help shouting out, “Ready, set, quiet” after the game has started. This one!
  • call lipstick “chap stick,” and the girl loves her chap stick! Her favorite it to apply “chap stick” and then give kisses.
  • is not shy about voicing her likes and dislikes, “I do NOT like spit up!”
  • has become quite the fish. She “swims” for hours in inflatable pool. She likes to jump in and shout “Cannon Bob!” Cute. I will never, ever call it a cannon ball ever again. Swoon.
  • thinks that fishing is “yucky!” Still, I think she got a thrill out of reeling in a fish…she just did not want to see the fish…nor touch it.
  • cried and cried and cried and cried when her cousin, Kyser had to return home. She kinda likes him.
  • called Kyser a penis. Yep. I will not say that Ky was completely innocent in this endeavor…he found it…ummmm…funny that we encourage our girls to openly discuss body parts. So he took FULL advantage in getting Denver to say penis, penis, penis…culminating in her calling him a penis (which he found hilarious. It was pretty hilarious)…which lead to “We do not call people names.” Whew. Slippery slope…why? Why no names? Why is calling someone a penis not kind? (What if she had called him an elbow? Is THAT unkind?) Needless to say, I was waaaay in over my head.
  • identified every character in her David and Goliath storybook by genitalia. “He has a penis. And so does he. And he has a penis, too.” Yep, all but the poor guy with the long hair had a penis. Long-hair dude had a vulva. Eh.
  • wants her back tickled as she falls asleep.
  • loves the ABC song and wants me to sing it to her as a lullaby at night.
  • learned to play Memory. And Eden taught her. Hil. Arious. I must say this for our girl, she is exuberant in her efforts…joyful and completely unaware of…uh…interrupting others who “follow the rules” (Eden’s words…following the rules!)
  • plays so well with Eden these days. Yes, still plenty of fighting…but oh the moments of giggles…as they have imaginary adventures. Such a delight!

Eden — Four and Seven

Oh, my girl. She has reached an age I just adore. Granted, they’ve all been pretty nifty, but this four-and-a-half stage is delicious. She’s funny…with fewer tantrums. She’s helpful…with fewer meltdowns. She’s sweet…with a fiery temper. She’s just the type of girl I’d pick to be my best buddy. So, once we’re through with the whole growing up thing, I think I’ll have a great gal to hang with.

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Landon...her soul mate.
Landon…her soul mate.
Yes. Yes those are what you think they are. A whole box of them. Yea.
Yes. Yes those are what you think they are. A whole box of them. Yea.

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Makeup applied by Eden.
Makeup applied by Eden.

At four years and seven months, Eden:

  • likes to cut her own hair. Granted, she just snips bits and pieces, so it’s not really noticeable. I wouldn’t even know if not for the trail of golden tendrils she leaves here and there.
  • attended her first VBS…and adored it. Yea! (Jury is still out for the mama…were the four days worth all the blood, sweat, and tears? Eh, a definite maybe.)
  • is da boss of her little sisters: “Denver, you should ask before using Mama’s shampoo.” Hmph.
  • offered to help Denver get her shirt one. Swoon. Such a helpful girl.
  • likes to play Mom and Daughter with Denver. They take turns being the mama. Here is Eden’s rendition of…well…me: “Denver! How many times do I have to tell you??” (Damn it! I’m that mom.)
  • is very, very, VERY fancy these days. Our blessed Sadie (ten-year-old mother’s helper) gave Eden some hand-me-downs. Lots of glitter. Lots of sparkle. Eden is one happy girl.
  • notices and complements girls…and guys…on their wardrobe choices…necklaces especially…but also shirts…skirts. She walks right up to strangers because she MUST, MUST, MUST let them know how much she enjoys their outfits.
  • attended her first wedding. She wore a princess dress and sneakers. Classy.
  • has fallen in love with the Disney Short “John Henry.” It has captured her heart and mind. Ummmm, delving into slavery was…interesting. Gotta start somewhere. Right? I just wasn’t prepared. Too soon! Too soon!
  • calls John Henry, John Hickman. When I asked who John Hickman was, she said, “He’s the brown man with the hammer.”
  • got a hold of a dry erase marker…and went to town…table, TV, floor, door…nice shade of black. Grrrr.
  • is queen of the Quiet Game. Ironic. My non-stop talker is a master of the Quiet Game. Ahhhh. Sweet, sweet peace for da mama.
  • enjoys listening to K-Love (Christian Music). Eden and Denver are learning some of the songs…which is super sweet.They were belting out, “He’s making diamonds out of us.” Indeed.
  • calls Goo Gone “Gone Junk”. Yep. That’s about right.
  • knows our address! How does she know our address??? The discovery:
    • Eden: “I know our house number!”
    • Dad: “What is it?”
    • Eden: “One, three, four, one, four.”
    • Dad: “How did you know that?????”
    • Eden: “I see it when we leave the house.”
  • got a surprise visit from her BFF, Landon! (He moved away in May…sniff, sniff.) She was beside herself with joy.
  • is a delight to raise. An absolute delight. Thank you, Jesus, for this precious girl!