Unfit

So, we’ve been fostering for about three years. And in that three years’ time, we’ve been assigned the crème de la crème of case managers. I wish she could say the same for us…or for me. But she has informed me…laughingly, “Jan, you are not a good foster mom. You are a great mom. But you treat these foster babies like they are yours. And they are not. You must remember, they are not yours.” Yep. It is true. I struggle greatly with the disparity in my parenting style for my “own children” versus my parenting style for my precious fosters. Risk management? What’s that? I figure, as long as the consequence is not fatal…or near fatal…let ’em figure stuff out for themselves. Right? Let ’em play, and tumble and climb and explore. Let ’em be bold and courageous in the face of the play scape or the slide or the tree. Yeah. No bueno for my Peas. No. Bueno.

And in my quiet moments, I realize, I am NOT a good foster mom. There are aspects of this gig that I forget time and time again. But I am learning. Slowly. I am learning. The babies belong to another woman. And my haphazard approach to risk management probably leaves her frustrated…and worried. And I am starting to realize, my inattention to detail is…unkind. Sigh.

Though it will feel crazy unnatural, I am going to try to parent in a way that isagainst every instinct I have. Now, I won’t stop being me…and I’ll make mistakes…and the fact that I am currently parenting a dare-devil of a toddler comes into play. Up til now, my focus in parenting has been for the love of the babies in my charge. My passion for their good. I am going to try to parent in a way that is loving to my charges’ mama. A consideration for her vulverable position of leaving the care of her babies to another.

Here’s to becoming a more loving foster mom…a fit foster mom.

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Weeping for and with My Girls

We are a foster family. Phil and I have willingly gone into this endeavor…we’ve counted the cost. Not so for Eden and Denver. Nope. The girls are coming along for the ride…actively participating…though they’ve had no say. And I wanted this for them. I wanted them to live the gospel. I wanted a life for our little family that meant, “We’re in this thing together.” I wanted this…in theory. The reality hurts my heart. But still, I want this for them.

When it comes to fostering, a great deal of attention is given to the fear of losing a child and the grief that comes with that. But make no mistake, grief happens in fostering…whether or not a child stays with the foster family or departs. And I failed to recognize this for my girls…and for me.

I am a fan of grief. It has been my best and truest teacher. Yet, I am almost always blindsides when it pops up in unexpected places. Like in the delivery room…where a beautifully healthy baby is put into mama’s arms….or in a wedding chapel…or when foster babies find a safe haven. There is grief …sometimes deep grief…in the change in seasons.

I was unprepared for the grief Eden and Denver would experience as our family blissfully welcomed two little girls. Yet my dear ones…my babies…they want their mama…they want the mama they had before the girls came. They want more of me than there is. And that mama is gone…forever.

I wanted (and still want) so desperately to ease their suffering. I saw it in Eden first. Weepy…so very weepy. I recognized her grief…but not the importance of her feeling her grief. I pulled the ol’, “But Eden, you are doing something so wonderful for these girls…” number.

Then I saw this quote by John Piper:

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. 

I was not allowing Eden to weep and sit in the yuck of losing me. Nor Denver. They needed to moan and cling and cry. So, right now, our girls are in the yuck…the yucky, yucky yuck. Don’t get me wrong, they love Chick Pea and Sweet Pea already. Eden and Den are gloriously helpful and sweet and kind and gentle and patient. There is lots of laughter around here…lots of joy…and lots and lots and lots of tears.

Together, we will grieve this joyous event…receiving Chick Pea and Sweet Pea. We will grieve the life we lost…the dynamics…the extra time to cuddle and snuggle…the attention.

Then we will wash our faces.

And embrace the life we have.

As a family.

Denver — Two and Six

Denver…oh Denver. I am so proud of this girl. On the evening of March 4th, she was my little…my baby. By the end of the night, she was a big…and a heck of an older sister. She fell right into the role. Seems she likes to guide and help…and be da boss, a bit. Mainly, her little chest swells as she shows her little charges the ropes.

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At two years and six months, Denver:

  • distinguishes each guest that enters our home by genitalia…so be prepared. “Her has vulva.” OR “Him has penis.” It’s a thing right now. She is starting to grasp the concept that she does not, in fact, have a penis…she. has. a. vulva.
  • is infatuated with the movie Home and reenacts the scene in which O runs to the Gorg ship…with Gorg “egg” outstretched in his hand…shouting, “Gorg! GORG!!!” It has been a most gratuitous month for her…March was filled with plastic Easter eggs and all. (This kid is adorable.)
  • begins each morning with, “I need candy.” She repeats this statement several times an hour…every hour…all day.
  • got into my glucotabs. First kid…kept Kyser out; kept Celis out; kept Kilian out; kept Eden out. Found Denver sitting in the car…open bottle of glucotabs…mostly empty. Stinker. (For the uninitiated, glucotabs are basically sugar pills…candy, if you will. They raise blood sugar quickly.) For each child in my life, I explained, “No! You may NOT have one. That is my medicine. ” Worked with every kid…until Denver.
  • asks for privacy…for diaper changes…or just to tinkle IN her diaper. I think it’s almost time for potty training.
  • is afraid of bugs. This breaks my bug-loving heart. She’s not totally afraid…she just does not want to touch them.
  • has my frustrated growl down perfectly. Per-fect-ly. She even follows with, “I’m. So. Frus-ter-ated!!!” It is the most adorable imitation.
  • has pronoun confusion. Eden did not really go through this phase, and it almost killed me. Denver’s in the thick of  it. “Her is my friend.” “Him is silly.” Etc, etc. Swooooon.
  • repeats questions with the answers…ad nauseum. In all honesty, I totally love this stage. She is rehearing a conversation…and rehearsing it…and rehearsing it. Now, this past month has been filled with lots of visits from two of our favorite boys, Landon and Maxon. So, this little number was played over and over:
    • Denver: Him has penis?
    • Me: Yes, he has a penis.
    • Denver: He is a big boy?
    • Me: Yes, he is a big boy.
    • Repeat…twenty times…give or take.
    • OR, this one:
    • Denver: I have penis?
    • Me: No, Den. You have a vulva.
    • Denver: I have vulva?
    • Me: Yes, babe. You have a vulva.
    • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
    • (Note, Phil does not find this rehearsing thing to be nearly as fun as I do.)
  • tells us, “Shhhh. The baby’s seeeeping” when Sweet Pea is taking a nap.
  • has pretend phone conversations with Nana…all the time.
  • is growing up! She’s not the baby anymore.
  • is definitely grieving. Sniff, sniff. This whole change…two more babies…is fun and NOT fun. She’s been very clingy…and wants to sit in my lap or near my lap or just be near me. She cries. A lot. And she doesn’t know why. But I do. And I try to love her through this transition…and let her cry and be held and be grumpy. So proud of what she is doing…even if she has no clue she is doing it.

 

The (In)Fertility Dance

Spoiler alert: we are not pregnant. We do not “officially” hope to get pregnant…but we hope. I waited two days upon completing this before testing. It was negative.

I wanted to capture this moment from the inside…from the middle. It may be the last time. Maybe. So for my precious fellow dancers, I offer you my heart. I hope it comforts yours.

I am doing the dance again. I’ve done it over and over…and yet it seems new each time. For twenty years…give or take…I have been doing this crazy fertility dance. This time, I want to capture it mid performance…this time…as it may be the last time…but in reality, that little fib is an integral part of the dance.

It begins with blood and tears. Again. The blood. It begins with the blood.

Failure to conceive.

Failure to breathe.

And then quickly…hope…always with the hope. Why? This whole dance would be so much easier if there wasn’t this crazy, starry-eyed hope that accompanies each failed pregnancy. And I don’t know how to stop the bubbling up of hope. With the blood and the tears comes an immediate response…next time. My heart cries next time. And no matter how ridiculous this hope thing is…no matter how many years go by…no matter how much explaining I offer my heart and beg it to STOP IT, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, that glimmer flickers. Next time.

I realized just this morning…hmmm, I have been irritable for two weeks…too long. I have exactly one week of extreme, mind-numbing irritablity. And right now I’m on week two.

So I counted. Thirty five days. Last cycle began thirty five days ago.

“Phil. I think we’re pregnant.”

How many times have I said that? How many pregnancy tests? It has been positive exactly TWO times out of the countless pregnancy tests I’ve taken over the past twenty years. TWO. I should have bought stock.

I have been here before. I have been at day thirty five before…and tested…and failed the test…miserably.

And this stupid hope just hangs around. And I fall for it every time. And I feel like such a fool.

Once more, here I sit. In hope. In humiliation.

I will take another test…submission to potential indignity…again. Perhaps I’ll wait a few more days? This is, after all, the sweet spot…the point between late cycle and definitive no. This is the space of hope.

We just happen to have a pregnancy test tucked away in our closet from the last dance. (I bought two last time…just in case. Something about having a test on hand eases the mortification of seeking out and purchasing my box of hope.)

And so…here I sit…in hope.

 

Because of You

August 20th.

A day frozen in my heart and mind. It is set apart unlike any other day of the year. I am transported back to that moment in which God held me steady while I breathed, breathed, breathed with Chuck until the breathing stopped. That exquisite moment of release and loss.

And so it was, my life with Chuck ended on August 20th. Our hopes, our dreams…all gone.

Oh, but it was Chuck Picciuti, the elder, who first said it. We were standing in line at the social security office and I was musing over the end of my writings about the hospital…how I never would have guessed the ending of our love story. With the tenderness only a father has for a beloved daughter, he assured me, “Jan, your life is not over.” It needed to be said. I needed to hear it. Though I did not believe it at the time, those words were a blessing from father to daughter…a promise that is being fulfilled…even as I write this.

“Your life is not over.”

It wasn’t long before I joined a young widow’s group and wrestled with others concerning how…how in the world does one move forward? How can life ever, ever, EVER have sweet peace ever again? How?

I learned…moving forward did not mean leaving Chuck behind. I found that convenient since my DNA had been altered…transformed by the power of marriage. I could not leave Chuck behind because he had been intricately woven into the fabric of…well, of me.

And then God sent Phil. Oh, Phil…a man of honor. Phil who esteems Chuck and the fiercesome creature Chuck helped fashion through fourteen years of marriage. Ah my brave Phil! How grateful I am for your gracious courage.

Together, Phil and I have created a life…in which Chuck is intertwined.  He is in our daughters…he is in our marriage…he is in the laughter, the tears…the life.

And today…we honor you.

Chuck, because of you:

 

 

 

 

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In Gratitude

Even as Chuck stopped breathing, he led me into a deeper, sweeter, bigger life. Not too shabby.

And from the outside looking in, my life today looks simple and sweet. I’m a homemaker with a growing family…two kids and counting. But scratch the surface, and there is a world of wonder beneath…a world in which the preciousness of life was delivered by a loving God who made sure that its full worth could be redeemed and treasured.

I often wonder, why me? Why such care? I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. And perhaps that is what makes God’s provision so unbearably sweet. God gave me comfort, peace, and security…but only as Chuck died. He gave me a greater capacity for joy…but only as I embraced my pain…my grief…my loss. He gave me children…but only as I rejoiced at my infertility upon realizing the devotion I could give my dying husband. He gave me Phil…but only as I delighted in the ability to give time to young families in the way only singleness allows.

And so today I celebrate Chuck…I celebrate his life…I celebrate our life…I celebrate life.

 

Live. Remember. Rejoice.

My grandmother died a few weeks ago. I have not written about it, because all I could really manage was “Grandma dead. Ouch. Sad.” But oh my body and my soul…telltale signs that something deep and painful and wrong had occurred.

First, my body. My body almost always responds to grief before my head does. Upon receiving word that Grandma was gone, I rushed off to dull my senses with a haircut. But I found it difficult to breathe. My heart hurt…literally…but I refused to feel in my spirit what my body so desperately needed me to process. “Down emotions! Down.” And down they stayed…for a while.

I was able to go home and attend the funeral with little to no feeling nor tears. Nada. Then home to resume life. Life would not be much different. I rarely saw my grandma. We spoke infrequently. If I was lucky, I could play this game of ignoring her death for weeks…months…but oh my soul!

My soul decided to join the grief party. It went something like this…weepy and sensitive…over everything…sorta like being pregnant again. And boy, was I ever pregnant…but my bundle was not one of joy…and I had no desire to deliver this tyke. Yet the labor pains continued (and continue) to increase daily. I weep over silly things. My heart is an open wound…but I do not welcome nor acknowledge my grief. For all my praise of grief and the amazing work God does in and through the process, I do not like it. I do not. I will not grieve…openly…yet. I know what to do. I’ve been coached through this a time or two. I’ve coached others. And all it takes is about 15 minutes of courage. That’s it.

Find a closet.

Light a candle.

Set the timer for 15 minutes.

Close the door.

FEEL it. Feel all of it. Give heed to the questions. Go to the dark places. Rail against injustice. Cry. Scream. Yell. Question. Question. Question. Whimper. Whimper. Whimper. Then silence. Sit in the stillness of the weariness that follows…weariness followed by a peace.

Timer goes off.

Get a drink of water.

Walk into the light.

Live.

Remember.

Rejoice.