Friday, January 18, 2019

Our first placement

We got news that we were officially licensed to do foster care on January 2nd, 2019. About 30 seconds after our social worker notified us that our license had come through, she sent another text asking if we wanted a 4 year old girl.

And just like that, we had entered the world of foster parenting.

I texted Nick to see what he thought, but knew in my heart that we were going to hold out for a younger kiddo. We licensed for up to age 18, but had decided to do 3 and younger. When we had originally filled out our paperwork in our MAPP class a few years ago, they asked us what we pictured when we thought about our first foster child. I specifically remember talking to Nick about it and letting him know that when I closed my eyes, I saw a 2 year old brown boy joining our family.

He seemed skeptical and said, "Really??" I had shared multiple times how much I wanted a newborn or tiny baby, so I think it threw him off when I told him what I saw in my mind. It was weird because I didn't WANT a 2 year old boy. I WANTED a sweet little 8 lb baby girl that I could snuggle and comfort and dress up. But when they asked that question on our paperwork and I stopped and meditated on what I pictured for our first foster child......that's what God brought to mind. So on our paperwork, that's what I wrote down.

A 2 year old brown boy.

Nick and I decided together not to take the 4 year old girl. My heart broke for her and although I knew she wasn't right for our family, I prayed they would find the perfect family for her. This foster parenting thing was already harder than I thought.

How do you just say no? How do you tell someone, "Sorry--I'm not interested in that kid. I'll hold out for something ‘better.’ "

My only thought and comfort was that God has somebody picked out for each kid and even though it might make me feel guilty, we have to do what we felt called to do. It's not saying 'no' to one's saying 'yes' to another.

A few hours later, I was working and heard the infamous 'ping' on my phone. It was my social worker.

She asked if wanted a 1 year old.

My heart started hands got mind was racing.

"Can I call you in 5 minutes?" I asked.

I was getting ready to leave work for the day and after I got that text, I wanted nothing more than to shoot out the door and get on the phone with my worker. I called her as soon as I got in the car to get more information.

"Boy or girl?" I asked.


"And he's one?" I said.

"He's almost two."

She told me his name and that he'd been in two or three other placements since the end of November. It took all I had not to start sobbing right then. A tiny human had been moved THREE times in the matter of one month. The tragedy of that wasn't lost on me.

"Let me call my husband and I'll let you know right away."

I called Nick and while we were both nervous and hesitant, we decided to say yes. Might as well jump in head first, right?

I called my worker back and let her know we were in. We got the arrangements figured out and eventually I heard from his social worker. She let us know she would be at our house with him around 11:30pm.

We got our kids to bed (they were DEVASTATED to miss his arrival). We laid down on the couch to try to catch a quick nap knowing that this kiddo was probably going to be wide awake and either ready to explore his surroundings or scared to death to be in another new home.

My phone rang at 11:15pm and his worker let me know they were pulling in the driveway.

We opened the door and she was standing there holding a lumpy bundle in a blue fuzzy blanket. She turned sideways so he could see us and our eyes locked onto the curly haired little 2 year old brown boy God had brought to our doorstep.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Our Journey to Foster Care--Part 2

After taking the classes for licensing for foster care and deciding I wasn't ready yet, we went about our business. We were raising our two cuties, working full time jobs and living the dream!

Eventually "the dream" turned into "the daily grind." Nick got promoted to General Manager at his job and his responsibilities increased a lot. He was working super long hours and while the pay was great, it was becoming a burden on our family. He left before any of us woke up (around 4:30am) and usually didn't get home until around 6pm. The kids were missing their dad and I was missing my husband. He was missing out on coaching the kids' teams and going to practices. He wasn't able to help me take them to doctor appointments or stay home with them if they were sick.

I was able to adjust my hours at work to be able to drop the kids off at school and pick them up four days a week, so that was a huge blessing. I felt better about them being with at least one parent most of the time rather than at daycare or latchkey (no judgement against using those, I just wanted my babies with ME if at all possible).

We were all gathering at home at the end of the day too exhausted and busy to really do anything other than eat dinner, take quick showers and drop into bed. Don't get me wrong--we loved our life, but we were just getting by day to day. Shuffling from one activity to the next.

In August, Nick was done. He LOVED the company he worked for, but the hours and the stress were too much. He knew it was time for a change and that's when we started REALLY praying about his job situation. We had friends praying, our church praying, our families praying....he started looking for jobs that wouldn't require a HUGE pay cut, but that had better hours and less stress! He needed something that would allow him more time with his family and to do the things he loved in life.

At the same time, God was bringing foster care to my heart and mind again. I was starting to feel the "baby itch." I felt better equipped to handle another kid. Not that our lives were any less hectic, but we were in more of a routine and my kids were able to shower themselves, brush their own teeth, get themselves dressed....I had more time in the day because they were able to do so much more on their own. After a lot of prayer on my own about this, I decided to tell Nick that I thought I was ready to look into it again. I wasn't sure what all we'd have to do or if the class we had taken 3 years before would still be valid for our licensing. One night after dinner, I said, "Babe, I'm ready. I'm ready to get into foster care and see what it would take to finish the licensing process." He stared at me for a second and then said, "K."

And I'm all, "Uhhhhh, did you HEAR me? I SAID....I'm FINALLY READY!"

He responded with a little more enthusiasm the second time and said something along the lines of, "That's great, babe!" I told him I'd check in with our MAPP class teacher to see what all we needed to do to complete licensing. We went to bed that night and I felt at peace with our decision to move forward.

The next day I was sitting at work and I heard a little "ping" come from my phone. I looked down at the notification and thought my eyes were going to bug out of my head. I immediately called Nick and said, "You're not going to believe this."

The lady that had taught our MAPP class had messaged me on Facebook. Her message said something along the lines of....."Hey! Did you guys ever finish licensing for foster care? I just started working for Restoration Family Services and thought of you. I have all of your paperwork from the MAPP class, so it wouldn't take much to finish up. Just let me know if you're interested in moving forward."

I. was. BLOWN AWAY. At that moment, I knew that I knew that I knew (as Pastor John always likes to say) that God was confirming that we needed to step out in faith and complete our licensing. Like, there was ZERO doubt in my mind after that happened. I was a little worried about how it was going to all work out since Nick was always busy with work and I was busy with the kids. But I knew God would make a way. I messaged our teacher back letting her know we would love to move forward. Again, we went to bed that night and I felt at peace with our decision.

The next day, NICK GOT A NEW JOB!! I kid you not, THE VERY DAY AFTER WE COMMITTED to moving forward with foster care, he got a job offer at the place he had really hoped to land. The pay cut was VERY minimal, it was a 7 minute drive from our house rather than 40 minutes and the hours were "around 7:30am" to "around 4:30pm." He got to come home for an hour for his lunch break and was told he could really set his own hours to an extent as long as all of his work got done.

Well, okay.

In a matter of 24 hours, our lives changed drastically. My husband turned in his notice, started his new job and we started the process of paperwork and house inspections. It took several months for us to finish everything, but FINALLY on January 2nd, 2019, we were officially licensed. And about 4 hours later, we got news of our first placement.

And it's been a whirlwind ever since....

Monday, January 14, 2019

Our Journey to Foster Care

Our journey to foster care.....a cheesy title, but there's truly no other way to describe the process other than as a journey. I've had several people ask how we decided to do foster care and.....well....there's not really a simple answer so I thought I'd record it here.

About 4 years ago, we were sitting in church. I can't remember what the sermon was about. I was tired. We had two young kids that I was trying to keep entertained for an hour and a half because they refused to go to the nursery. Honestly, I just remember being SO over it. I wanted to go home and sleep and relax and not chase children everywhere. My eyelids were getting heavy (sorry Pastor) and juuuuuust as I was starting to doze off, my husband slides a piece of paper over to me that he had written a note on.

I thought, "Oh, that's so cute! He's going to tell me he loves me or that I deserve a nice long nap when we get home."

And then I read the note.

It said, "We should do foster care."

No thank you.

There was literally nothing I could think of that I would rather do LESS than raise another child who needs more attention than my own two. But I didn't want to let Nick know that. I looked up and met his eyes.....smiled.....and shrugged my shoulders. I whispered, "Let's talk about that later" while frantically trying to think of a reason to say no that wouldn't make me sound like a horrible, awful person.

That's all I thought about after he gave me that note. Through the whole church service, my mind bounced back and forth between 'that could be really awesome' and 'that sounds like hell.'

After church, we got in the car and I braced myself for the inevitable.

"So.....what do you think about foster care?" he asked me.

" sounds like a really nice thing.....for another family to do."

And I'll spare you all of the conversation we had in between, but eventually I agreed to take the required classes to get licensed. Nick was completely understanding of my hesitation and didn't pressure me at all, but I'll admit that I initially said yes out of guilt. My husband felt a true calling to it and I did not. But my thought process was that there's no way being a foster parent was a BAD thing so even though I didn't necessarily feel like it was the right thing for my life at the time, I went along with it.

We took the 9 week MAPP-TIPS class. If I remember correctly, it was a 3 hour class that we took once a week. Those were some really long nights. My kids were still three and four and I hated leaving them with someone else for an entire evening every week. We both went there straight from work and we all went straight to bed once we got home.

The classes were amazing. We learned SO much. It was heartbreaking to see that the need is so great and to watch the videos and learn about how to handle these kids who have been through so much. But at the same time I felt compassion and sadness, I felt SO overwhelmed. With each foster kid comes finding a baby-sitter, establishing care with a doctor, getting them seen for a check up ASAP, paperwork that's never ending, documenting EVERYTHING, emailing social workers and on top of all of that, being the best parent you can to a child who is lost and broken. The list is never ending.

After our final class, I remember driving home in the dark. My heart was aching...for all the kids in the system, for my own two kids because I missed them and they missed me, because I was exhausted and I just KNEW I wasn't ready to do foster care. I didn't know how to tell Nick and I felt so much guilt (self-induced). I felt like a bad person for not wanting to do this. I felt like I was letting Nick down or keeping him from God's call on his life. I was speaking a lot of untruths to myself. I turned on K-LOVE (our local Christian radio station) hoping to get SOMETHING to uplift my spirit and the song "It's Not Over Yet" by King and Country came on.

Talk about the Holy Spirit knocking your socks off. It was like literally every word was speaking directly to each negative thought I'd had in that car ride.

And they are inside your head
You got a voice that says
You won't get past this one
You won't win your freedom
It's like a constant war
And you want to settle that score
But you're bruised and beaten
And you feel defeated
This goes out to the heaviest heart
Oh, to everyone who's hit their limit
It's not over yet
It's not over yet

And even when you think you're finished
It's not over yet
It's not over yet
Keep on fighting
Out of the dark

Into the light
It's not over
Hope is rising
Never give in
Never give up
It's not over yet
Oh, game set match
It's time to put it in your past, oh
Feel the winter leavin'
It's redemption season

Long live the young at heart (here we are)
Cheers to a brand new start (here we are)
We're revived and breathing
To live a life of freedom
Oh, to everyone who's hit their limit
It's not over yet
It's not over yet
And even when you think you're finished
It's not over yet
It's not over yet
And life is a race we run
So run till the race is won
Don't you ever give up (here we are)
Oh no never give up (here we are)
I remember just sobbing the rest of the way home and feeling like God was assuring me that it's okay. It's not over. Just because I'm not doing something RIGHT NOW doesn't mean it won't ever happen. That Nick wouldn't resent me. That he would provide other people to step up for these kids. That my kids were doing okay. That we were heading into a redemption season. 
I don't remember when or how I told Nick that I for sure wasn't ready. The years have blurred my memory a bit, but that song and that car ride are something I will never forget and that I clung to for the next few years. 
This post is a little lengthy now, so I'm wrapping up with that and will be back tomorrow to tell you how God brought me back to saying YES to foster care!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tessa's 6th Birthday

We had so much fun celebrating Tessa's 6th birthday!

She decided that this year, she wanted to have a friend party also. Her cousin, Alex, has a birthday close to hers, so they came up with the idea of having a joint pool party! It was actually a lot of fun and super low-key (which is my favorite kind of party). The decorating was minimal and I didn't have to clean my house--it was a win-win!

The Friday before her birthday, she invited all of the girls from her class, some friends from church and a few of our family friends to her mermaid swimming party and had the BEST time.

 Funny story--we had to do cupcakes as soon as we got there because the frosting was melting so quick! And then it was kind of windy and we couldn't get the match to stay lit, so I made her pretend to blow out the candles--she was so embarrassed! But she went along with it like a champ!

They got to eat, open presents and swim to their heart's content. She went off the diving board no less than 20 times. It was so fun to watch her interact with her little girlfriends and to see her having so much fun with them!

Brooke's birthday present to the kids is to pick an activity they want to do and she takes them for a night out. Tessa picked ice skating and decided she wanted to take her brother and cousins with her--such a sweetie! She loves being with her family. So the night before her birthday, Brooke and Michael and mom took them to Wichita Ice and I met them there to watch them skate a bit.....or try to skate. It was so funny because I think they all thought they were going to go out on the ice and just start skating away! It was so much harder than they thought!
 That little face.....

Tessa had so much fun! After ice skating, she came home and got to stay up a little later than normal. Then she went to sleep a 5 year old..........and woke up a 6 year old!

 She asked for a chocolate long john for breakfast, so that's what we put her birthday candles in!

 After breakfast, I let her open a few presents. She has been begging for fake glasses. She gets so mad at me because I won't let her buy the ones from the Dollar Tree that people use to help with reading and stuff. I didn't want them to mess up her eyes! So I finally found some kids fake glasses with lenses that have no prescription at all in them and she was SO happy!

She insisted on wearing them to Nana's house for the day.

She got to have a little party with her cousins at Nana's. After work, I picked them up and we met Nick at Golden Corral for dinner (Tessa's choice). Tommy was in roll heaven the whole time....

 Tessa loved it too. She got her macaroni fix (this girl could eat macaroni every day of the week). And she got her favorite dessert from the buffet--a bowl full of candy with chocolate fudge to dip it in!
 She was so full after dinner that Daddy had to carry her out--ha! Not really...but she takes every chance she can get for Dad to carry her.
 Tessa and I did a little shopping after dinner and the boys went home. It was a lot of fun watching her try to decide what to spend her birthday money on! When we finally got home for the night, she opened the last of her presents. She kept making this face for all of them...
 And I got some sweet snuggles from the birthday girl at the end of the night! I love her so much.

Her final birthday celebration happened in Stockton at Nick's family reunion! We got together with a bunch of fantastic people and got to party again! Our cousin made the CUTEST mermaid cookies for Tessa.......

 She loved them! Let's be honest....we all loved them. I ate far too many mermaid tails! She got all kinds of fun mermaid stuff from her aunts/grandparents/cousins, etc.

Overall, we spent about a week celebrating Tessa Grace. She was worth every minute and every dime spent! I love our little sweet, spunky six year old!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

To Tessa, on your 6th birthday--

Tessa Grace--

I can't believe you are 6 years old. It just doesn't seem possible. It literally feels like yesterday that we were waiting to see your face as you came into the world!

At 6 years old, you are around 55 pounds and about 46 inches tall. You're in a size 7 top and bottom and wear a size 13 shoe! You're feet are growing like CRAZY.

Kindergarten got you so far in your reading and you have really started to love reading to people. It takes a little time to get through a sentence because you're still sounding things out a lot, but you're getting pretty good!

You LOVE doing anything artsy. Coloring, cutting things into pretty shapes, crafts, seem to enjoy it all! You also like writing in your journal and leaving little notes for me and Daddy around the house. It's the best. One morning, I left for work and on the back door was a sticky note from you that said, "I love you mommy and daddy." That was a few months ago and I haven't taken it down yet because it's so sweet.

You've just recently gotten into a few more girly things. You haven't been super into bows and shoes and purses and accessories until the last few months. Now you love adding your own flair to outfits and going shopping for cute hair stuff or fun little outfits. You have a little wallet that you carry around (that is always full of money because you HATE spending what money you have!). It's been fun watching you find your girlier side (although you still ride four wheelers and get muddy and pick up bugs that gross me out). 

You are super sweet and compassionate. That is something you did NOT get from me. I really struggle with empathy sometimes, but just take on everyone's feelings as your own. When somebody's hurt, you're the first one there to help do whatever needs done. Me and daddy always say you're going to be a nurse because you're good at comforting people, but also at being methodical and level headed about helping "fix ouchies." I am so glad you have such a tender heart and am praying that it stays that way!

While you're mostly sweet as are SO sassy lately. I sometimes struggle because I've been laughing when you get mad. I can't help myself! You are seriously usually the most calm, sweet little girl, but when you're REALLY mad....oh man. Everybody better look out. You can shoot daggers with those eyes. Seeing your cute little face get all grumpy just makes me giggle!

When your feelings are hurt, you totally retreat and it takes me a good 20 minutes to get you to talk to me and tell me what's wrong. But eventually you talk to me and tell me what's wrong--you are always quick to forgive and hug and make up. I always make you and your brother hug after you're done fighting and while you fight it at first, you usually end up giggling by the end of the hug.

I just love you, little lady! You make me want to be a better person. You call me out when a bad word slips out of my mouth, you remind me if I'm being too grumpy, you tell me that God loves us more than anyone on earth can, you sing at the top of your lungs and put all of your heart into it no matter what you sound like,  you say what you're thinking even if I can tell you instantly regret it and you just are a FUN little person.  I'm so glad you were born SIX YEARS AGO!! I love you, Gracie Lou.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

4th of July 2018

I love the 4th of July--I think it's my favorite holiday besides Christmas.

We took our annual end of June/beginning of July trip to Stockton with the Wilhelms and had a great time!

Us girls had taken a trip to Walmart at the beginning of the week and stocked up on hats to wear on the boat!

 Tessa Grace used her hat to shield her face from pictures....RUDE.
 We enjoyed lots of time on the water! The kids got to drive the boat and thought they were so grown up.

We were finally there to see the fireworks show Stockton puts on every year--we've usually already left Stockton by the time they do it, so it was fun to be able to watch it with everyone! We drug our chairs and blankets out to the front yard and enjoyed the show!
 Then the kids (and Nick and Josh) got to do some sparklers and had the best time!

We headed home from Stockton on Monday and had a day of rest and then hosted my family for our annual 4th of July party. Except we did it on July 3rd this year so everyone could have the next day to recover off work since we always stay up so late! Brooke made the most delicious sugar cookie flag cake....YUM!

We spent most of the evening playing outside in the pool and enjoying the warm weather!

 One of us (I won't mention any names) even snuck a few drinks of Mountain Dew when he thought nobody was watching...

Once it was dark, we started shooting off our fireworks and watched the fireworks shows going off in the surrounding towns. It's cool because from our yard, you can see shows in Andover, Benton, Towanda, El Dorado, can watch one in pretty much any direction you look!

On the actual 4th of July, we spent most of the day at home and then went to the neighbor's house for some swimming, volleyball and more fireworks! We had a great time celebrating our nation's freedom! We are so thankful for the men and women who have fought for our country!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

June was a busy month!

June was a fun and busy month!

I celebrated my 10 year anniversary at my job. Which was CRAZY! I have to be honest and say 10 years has FLOOOWN by. It was a fun day with all my co-workers! They decorated my office and gave me a super sweet card. 

We watched a loooooot of baseball. It was hot and dirty, but so much fun to watch the kids play. They both enjoy it okay, but I'm not sure that baseball will be in our future next year. Neither one of them LOVE to play and I think Tommy especially gets bored with how slow it can be sometimes. He likes sports that require constant action, like football and soccer. But either way, it was fun to watch them learn and bond with their teams!

We celebrated this guy on Father's Day. Literally couldn't ask for a better father for my children than him. He's the best!
 I especially love how patient he is in showing the kids how to do things and he's always willing to take them along on anything he does--mowing, hunting, messing around in the barn. Whatever it is, it doesn't bother him a bit to have a kid or two tagging along.

We celebrated Michael's birthday with a pool party at his parent's house. I didn't get a picture of the birthday boy, but I DID manage to snag a picture with these two cuties...

I caught some major sass from the kids most of the month. I don't know if it was just them adjusting to being out of school, but MAN they were sassy! However, I especially love this picture of Tommy trying to act mad but also trying not to smile. It kind of captures his personality perfectly--he's happy most of the time but tries to act big and bad. His momma can always see the smile behind the toughness though.

Tessa and I both had lumps we had to get ultrasounds on, so we ended up at the same doctor's office. She had a big lump behind her ear that wasn't going away. We had the ultrasound and the radiologist said it was just a really big lymph node but it didn't look infected or anything, so we just kept an eye on it for awhile and it eventually went away. I was so glad it was nothing!

The perfect ending to our month was adding a sweet little (outdoor) kitty to our family. They named him Whiskers and pretty much everyone in our family is smitten. I even like it much more than I thought I would. This cat seems to have more of a personality than any of our other kitties ever have.

Our June was busy, but so SO fun! I love spending the summer with my sweet family!